James McKeown trained Once You Go Black swamped the opposition in the Gr 3 Madras Gold Vase, a terms race for three-year-olds in spectacular fashion at Madras Race Course on Thursday. The progeny of Win Legend was ridden with supreme confidence by visiting jockey, Stephen Gray. Once You Go Black won by a widening margin of six lengths with McKeown`s another ward Rubirosa edging out Chinky Pinky to snatch the second position.
Once You Go Back had won in impressive fashion over a minimum trip. Now racing over a more suitable trip of seven furlongs, Once You Go Back should have been strongly backed but surprisingly was allowed to run at nourishing odds. For the record, the winner of the last start Priceless Beauty was the favourite.
The start was ominous for the backers of the favourite as Priceless Beauty was lethargic at the gates and thereafter looked like a beaten horse, not able to cover the leeway or show spark in her performance. She was a beaten cause from the start. Hyderabad challenger Arabian Queen showed speed and resolution to lead the field with Rubirosa moving into the second position after a hesitant start, followed by Chinky Pinky, Zuchardi, Once You Go, Black, Kay Star, Priceless Beauty and Shez R Star racing behind in that order. Arabian Queen held the lead till approaching the final furlong. Gray got busy on Once You Go Black on entering the straight. The second favourite covered ground briskly and showed remarkable acceleration under a vigorous ride by Gray to go storming clear in the final furlong to win from the stablemate who was many lengths behind in the second position holding off Bangalore challenger Chinky Pinky.
The striking feature of Once You Go Black`s win was the good temperament displayed by the colt as also his ability to change gears. Surely, the three-year-old should pick up a bagful of races for McKeown. The striking feature of Once You Go Black`s win was the good temperament displayed by the colt as also his ability to change gears. Surely, the three-year-old should pick up a bagful of races for McKeown. ``Once You Go Black has plenty of ability and should do well as he matures with racing experience,`` said McKeown.
Stephen Gray is a good jockey with loads of talent. The young jockey, unfortunately, came to ride in India for trainer Padmanabhan at a time when the stable was going through a rare lean patch for a variety of reasons, the interrupted racing also having a bearing on the preparation of horses. Gray is steadily getting the hang of Indian racing which demands sharper reflexes and tremendous skill. Visiting jockeys who came to India during their formative years later went on to become champions, with the riding experience in India helping them to be sharper. One is sure that Gray will become a more familiar jockey for Indian racegoers in days to come.
McKeown led in another winner through Despacito who breezed through the opposition to win the 1200 metres Colossal Moments Handicap (Div II). Despacito was driven out to produce her best approaching the final furlong. Despacito easily measured the opposition to win comfortably over Lady Solitaire and Star Ranking to provide Gray with a quick back-to-back win.
Trainer Adhirajsingh Jodha who made a switch to Chennai this season after a decade long association with the Royal Western India Turf Club has been striking it rich, winning races with consistency. Lesser fancied Heidmar managed to get the better of Angel Light virtually in the dying stride of the race in the hands of jockey C S Jodha. Prince of Windsor, the favourite, was a disappointing third.
Ginsburg who won the Berkshire Handicap at the expense of Driftwood Pacific was another winner saddled by Jodha. The win swelled the tally of Jodha to 17. Trainer Deepesh Narredu who also made the switch from Mumbai to Chennai this season saddled a winner through Star Romance in the A V Thomas Memorial Trophy, a race for three-year-olds. Deepesh leads the table with 19 wins.