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Eastwood causes a big upset in Calcutta Derby
Review: By: Our Correspondent
February 12 , 2022

Christopher Alford trained Eastwood brought off a big upset in the Gr 1 Calcutta Derby Stakes, a terms race for four-year-olds, the star event of the Kolkata racing season on Saturday. The winter season was resumed only last week after being halted abruptly due to a spike in Coronavirus. As such, quite a lot of horses did not have the maturity for a race of this stature as they had missed the progress that they would have made if racing had been held continuously. Under the circumstances, it is the emerging horses that are capable of upsetting all calculations.

Almost all the Derbys held in the country have had a surprise element, with the horses which were perceived as the ones with a definite chance to win the Derby at the beginning of the season falling by the wayside. For trainer Christopher Alford who has won this event several times as a jockey, this has been a grand success as he achieved the Derby double as a jockey and as a trainer. Congratulations to the Calcutta champion! Jockey Neeraj Rawal who is getting chances aplenty and is making the best use of them, had back-to-back Derby winners, having earlier been successful on Faith of Success in the Golconda Derby. His riding and confidence surely have gone up by a couple of notches.

Coming back to the race, the race had a very open look about it as evidenced by the odds on the horses, with the minimum price quoted on the perceived favourite being at 4 to 1. Sea Lion who had won the Guineas impressively by over six lengths was the favourite with support for maiden Karanveer also being there because of his fourth in the Golconda Derby effort. Kamilah who had won the Guineas was also a fancied runner along with Alastair who had finished fourth to A Star Is Born in the Indian 2000 Guineas. Silvarius who had finished third in the Bangalore Derby was another in betting consideration. As such, winner-picking was a hazardous guess, with the form of the horses not being of much help. Even the betting trend too did not give a clue that Eastwood who had finished faraway second in the Guineas would turn the form upside down over the extended trip of a mile and a half.


The start was ominous for the supporters of Sea Lion as he missed the kick and lost about six lengths at the start. Galen set a modest pace followed by Silvarius, Karanveer, Jake, Eastwood, Protector, Kamilah, Alistair and Sea Lion being tailed off last. The fact that Karanveer had to be pushed by jockey Trevor Patel to make a futile bid to take over from the pace-setter itself well before the bend indicated that the fancied runner would be hard-pressed to give a bold show. Karanveer faded out of contention. Jockey Neeraj Rawal on Eastwood was handily placed and he made his move even as Karanveer was in the process of taking charge.

The progeny of Phoenix Tower showed the patented speed to go storming clear and established what turned out to be a winning lead. Kamilah who had about five lengths to cover on the eventual winner moved from the wide outside towards the rails and essayed a very strong challenge. The two fought the final 100 metres, with Eastwood, in the hands of jockey Neeraj Rawal staving off the Akshay Kumar ridden Kamilah. Sea Lion covered good ground in the straight from way off the pace to finish third less than two lengths adrift of the winner. For Sea Lion, it was an opportunity lost because of an inauspicious start. Eastwood provided his sire Phoenix Tower with yet another Derby win over a mile and half trip.

Neeraj Rawal was once again seen at his best on Awesome One whom he brought into contention with a well-timed challenge to get the better of Soaring High close to home in the 1200 metres Vivek Freight Calcutta Champions’ Sprint Trophy, a terms race for four-year-olds and over. Awesome One who has been a prolific performer justified the strong favouritism with a late winning dash. Prince Satsuma was third.

Champion trainer Vijay Singh was doubled handed in the Gr 3 Ebco Livesmart Indian Champagne Stakes, a terms race for three-year-olds. Raisina Star was the strong favourite ahead of Leonardo. Suraj Narredu had Raisina Star lead from the start with the quickly improving Leonardo in the chase. Approaching the final furlong, Leonardo pounced on the front-runner and sailed away for a win by a widening margin of five lengths over the favourite. Social Truth ran on to finish third. Leonardo, the three-year-old son of Speaking of which, surely is a bright prospect.

Neeraj Rawal also had another winner earlier in the day in the 1200 metres S S Bala Memorial Cup, a race for horses rated 41 to 66. Delphini who was backed with conviction by the racegoers, came up with a powerful burst of speed down the final furlong to go storming clear to win easily from Nova. Indian Tiger was third.

Shyam S Habbu trained Tigrio proved too good while recording an encore in the 1400 metres Cros Cup, a race for horses rated 61 to 86 in the hands of jockey R S Bhati who went on to record a double. Tigrio assumed command down the final furlong and sped away for a win by a margin of over three lengths. Mountain Lion managed to nose out the second favourite Topnotch to snatch the runner-up berth.

Vijay Singh trained Wencheng provided the second winner of the day for jockey R S Bhati in the 1200 metres Quasar Cup, a race for horses in the lowest category. Available at odds of 10 to 1, Wencheng fought off a resolute battle with Castillo to prevail in the end. Star Justice was third.

Trainer Vijay Singh who dominated the day’s proceedings, had one more long priced winner, in the day’s opener, through Dornish in the 2000 metres Hall of Famer Cup, a race for horses rated 41 to 86. Visiting jockey S A Gray was astride the winner. Dornish who travelled handily into the straight, assumed command early in the stretch, to win by a widening margin of four lengths over Magnite. The short-priced favourite Vanguard was a disappointing third. Infinite N Beyond collapsed in the stretch dropping his jockey Akshay Kumar. The horse was vanned off while jockey Akshay Kumar escaped unhurt.

Bangalore based Anthony Raj who is now getting good opportunities rode a confident race on the fancied Santana in the 1400 metres Albert Piperno Memorial Cup, a race for horses rated 21 to 46. Santana shot ahead approaching the final furlong and established a comfortable cushion which ensured that the five-year-old gelding will have a productive day. Tres Bien closed on strongly but he could do no better than finishing second best, about ¾ lengths adrift of the winner. Namiki was third.

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