Adhiraj Jodha trained Lucky Luciano was guided to a facile win by jockey Imran Khan in the 2000 metres Mayor Baburao Sanas Memorial Independence Million powered by SRS Group, a race for horses rated 20 to 46, the highlight of the races held on the Independence Day at Pune on Thursday. The race had a history of throwing up surprises but this time out Lucky Luciano won as a fancied runner.
The race had an open look about it with most of the fancied runners commanding a good price in the betting ring. Rogue One led the field from the start with jockey Imran Khan placing Lucky Luciano in a handy third position. Imran got busy on Lucky Luciano approaching the final turn and the progeny of Rebuttal easily measured the front-runner inside the final two furlongs and sped away for an effortless win over Benevolence who has consistently found one better. Star Silver nosed out Brazos for the third position. Fanfare and Rogue One were badly in need of a lung opener and Lucky Luciano who had the benefit of a forward benefitted the most striking winning form after more than 200 days.
Noshir Cama trained Gazino closed home with a powerful effort in the hands of jockey Neeraj Rawal and prevailed over Flaming Martini by a whisker to win the 1200 metres Enlightenment Plate, a race for horses rated 60 to 86. King Khalil was widely fancied to record an encore though Flaming Martini was better placed over the favourite vis-à-vis their last clash. After Wild Fire set a fast pace and brought the field into view before weakening, King Khalil took charge but he could not keep the lead for long as Flaming Martini was breathing down his neck. The latter surged and shaped to win but her hopes were dashed by the late flourish of Gazino who came from a long way back to snatch the verdict on the post in the closing stride of the race. Excellent Gold, as is his wont, rallied late to save place money at the expense of King Khalil who wilted under pressure.
The quality of racing has taken a big slump with as many as four races in the seven-event card catering to the horses in the lowest category. Add to the unreliability of such races, you have the race full of horses from Narendra Lagad and Mansoor Shah, the race has only apprentice jockeys riding, and they are not permitted to carry the whip as well, you have a recipe for disaster. You can never be sure of what you are going to get. There were many horses from Lagad`s stable with God`s Word being the favourite with Shah`s Teodor Monte being the second favourite to win the True Elegance Plate (Div II), a race for horses rated up to 30. Long shot Abraxas led from the start and held off the challenge of favourite and stablemate Godsword to add misery to the punters. Aniket Karande rode the winner. Abraxas was winning after 369 days and in her last effort, she had finished more than 20 lengths behind the winner. Teodor Monte failed to get a favourable position early on and ran on to be a poor third. The upper-division of the race was won by favourite Julio Cesaro by a nose over stablemate Brave to provide apprentice jockey Karande with a double. Windsor Fortune led most of the way before Brave took charge with a furlong left in the race. Julio Cesaro made a strong challenge and just about managed to snatch the verdict in the final stride of the race. Windsor Fortune was third. With a surfeit of horses in this category, it was no surprise that the first three horses belonged to Lagad.
S S Shah trained Flying Dragon prevailed in the 1400 metres Saint Emilion Plate (Div I), a race for horses rated 4 to 30. Dragonmoss was the strong favourite though for one going by the trend in the betting ring it was clear that Flying Dragon was coming in for notable support. After Whoopsdaisy led the field into the straight, Ayyar pushed Flying Dragon to take over the running on the wide outside even as apprentice jockey Santosh on favourite Dragonmoss got into a mess trying to take the narrow gap between the pacesetter and Allegria and had to check his mount. In the meanwhile, Flying Dragon spurted clear and had no problem in holding off the threat of three others who finished in a line. Gandalf was second ahead of She`s A Tiger and Dragonmoss with a short head and nose separating those who were fighting out for minor placings. Mansoor Shah trained Nightfall who had shown some semblance of form during the fag end of the Mumbai racing season was the most preferred horse in the lower division of the race. Barring Nightfall, the rest of the runners were all at big odds. Long shot Forever Free had an uncontested lead in the front with Nightfall settled in about the third position till turning for home. Forever Free had a good break coming into the straight with Sandesh on Nightfall getting busy and bringing the favourite into strong contention. Nightfall measured the front-runner in the final furlong and won the race with a measure of comfort. Cray Cray ran on to finish third ahead of Vitesse. This was the second win for the six-year-old Nightfall in 24 outings, the last win having come 732 days ago!
S S Shah trained Xo Xo who had gone down by a whisker on the last occasion made amends in the 1200 metres Dr K Sardeshmukh Maharaj Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. Favourite Super Mario got a run along the rails in the stretch and Sandesh brought the progeny of Phoenix Tower into strong contention inside the final furlong. Xo Xo also made a big rally on the wide outside precisely at this juncture and joined issue with the favourite and managed to prevail by a neck in the end. Arabian Storm, who was in the hunt, failed to change gears as it were but took the third place at the expense of Philadelphia. Fancied Collegium played up at the gates and was withdrawn from the fray.
Abraxas (Aniket Karande up) winner of the True Elegance Plate (Div-II)
Julio Cesaro (Aniket Karande up) winner of the True Elegance Plate (Div-I)
Nightfall (A Sandesh up) winner of the Saint Emilion Plate (Div-II)
Gazino (Neeraj Rawal up) winner of the Enlightenment Plate
Lucky Luciano (A Imran Khan up) winner of the Mayor Baburao Sanas Memorial Independence Million Powered By Srs Group
Xoxo (N S Parmar up) winner of the Dr P K Sardeshmukh Maharaj Trophy
Flying Dragon (M Ayyar up) winner of the Saint Emilion Plate (Div-I)