Sulaiman Attaollahi trained Forest Flame won the Gr 2 2000 metres Teena Katrak Memorial RWITC Ltd trophy, a terms race for four-year-olds and over, the feature event of Saturday`s Pune races easier than expected. Juliette who was expected to make amends appeared a pale shadow of herself as she failed to produce the patented burst of speed and went down meekly.
Siddique Saqlain who quickly completed his allowance with a bagful of wins all centres and became a full-fledged jockey on Sunday booted home three winners in keeping with his growing stature.
Juliette had reportedly suffered a setback after the Invitation Cup win at Chennai and had skipped the whole of Bangalore Summer Season. Her last start defeat could be attributed to her being ring rusty but today`s defeat confirmed the belief that all is not 100 per cent well with her. The last defeat had come in a small field of three runners and the pace of the race could have had a bearing. But today, the pace was quite strong and if Juliette had been at her peak, she would have easily tackled Forest Flame in the stretch. There seems to be something wrong with her galloping leg which saw her travel very wide into the straight and then she was unable to show the acceleration of old.
The confidence of the ring in Juliette bouncing back was such that the six-year-old mare was quoted at a shorter price than last time to win over a trip reckoned to be more suitable. Forest Flame who had vanquished her last time was quoted at generous odds. Northern Lights set a decent pace followed by Caprisca, Forest Flame, A Star Is Born and Juliette. Jockey C S Jodha on Juliette made his move earlier than he would have preferred and was within striking distance of those in front. Sandesh pushed Forest Flame to take over the running inside the final three furlongs. The progeny of Leitir Mor stormed ahead and was travelling well within herself when Jodha got aggressive on Juliette. The favourite took the final bend very wide and did not show the spark of old. It was clear by the final furlong that Forest Flame would win hands down. Juliette ran on to take the second position ahead of Caprisca. A Star Is Born who finished a disappointing fifth too is not in the same form that saw him win the Indian 2000 Guineas last year.
Dallas Todywalla trained Successor has been campaigned ambitiously in bigger events over longer trips though her forte appeared to be shorter trips. Brought back to race in the 1400 metres Delhi Race Club Trophy, a race for horses rated 80 and above, Successor shared favouritism with One Wish who had recorded back-to-back wins. Promising jockey Saqlain took Successor to the front from the word `go` and the progeny of Leitir Mor enjoyed her foray in front and skipped clear in the final furlong to win with ease. One Wish chased the front-runner well into the straight and travelled strongly as well but when asked to quicken, she faltered. Flying Visit ran on from way behind to grab the third slot from Giant Star.
Saqlain had a rewarding day booting home three winners. Apart from Successor, he drove out with all the resources at his command to guide long-shot Cipher to a thrilling win over Desert Fire in the 1400 metres Dakshin Maharashtra & Goa Sub-Area Trophy, a race for horses rated 40 to 66. Desert Fire led from the start and had a useful lead going into the final furlong. Saqlain cleverly manipulated his way through a tight opening on the inside of Majestic Warrior and Pure and managed to nose out the long-time leader. Pure and Majestic Warrior finished in close order.
When Narendra Lagad wins, rarely do punters manage to spot the winner. The last race of the day, the 1200 metres Versaki Trophy (Div I), a race for horses rated 20 to 46, was won by his trainee Excellent Gold who came up with a late charge to land the spoils in a three-horse finish. For the record, Excellent Gold was winning a race after a gap of 1762 days! Sky Hawk who was the favourite and stablemate Pisa were coming into the reckoning in the final 100 metres after getting past the pace-setting Dilbar when Excellent Gold covered acres of ground to floor both these public choices. The lower division of the race too was by long shot Trinket from the stables of trainer Karthik Ganapathy. Narendra Lagad trained Alpine Star was the on-money favourite because of the credentials that the three-year-old had. Nord who led aggressively in front was challenged strongly Alpine Star in the final stages of the race, with Trinkets too finishing on powerfully. In a three-way finish, Trinket managed to neck out Alpine Star to win the race. Nord was a close third.
Lagad`s stable exploded another long shot in nine-year-old Power of Thor who managed to prevail in a tight finish in the 1400 metres Venus Arising Trophy, a race for horses in the lowest category. Lesser fancied Shadows attempted to run the others off their feet but in the shadow of the post, a host of runners finished with strong efforts. Power of Thor got the lead in the closing strides of the race and held off the late charge of favourite Periwinkle. Speculator and Shadows who were in contention till the last 50 metres weakened to take the third and fourth spots.
Faisal Abbas trained Murwara Princess had gone down by a whisker in her last outing. Backed to the exclusion of the rest to oblige in the 2000 metres Shamu Chavan Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46, Murwara Princess, in the hands of Saqlain, found all the right gaps in the closing moments of the race to neck out Chat to land the spoils. Beyond Measure who battled on strongly in the front till overhauled by the eventual winners, lost the third slot to Gangster who necked out the fancied runner.
Trainer Ivor Fernandes led in a winner through Alpha Gene who recorded a hat-trick of wins in the 1600 metres J E Hughes Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. Alpha Gene closed with a rush in the hands of jockey Dashrath Singh to nose out Remy Red to land the spoils at nourishing odds. Excellent Star headed favourite Silver Sprint at the post to save place money.