Monday, January 24, 2011

Indian Oaks report

"I will need a week to decide about Derby": Cooji Katrak

Prakash Gosavi

After repeatedly playing second fiddle to winners of the graded races starting from the Pune Derby in October last year, luck finally smiled on trainer Cooji Katrak on Sunday at Mahalaxmi when jockey Richard Hughes drove Moonlight Romance to an impressive victory in the grade 1, HDIL Indian Oaks, the main event of Sunday's 11-race bumper card. Another Katrak ward, Sunlight (Paul Mulrennan up) took up the runner up spot pushing Dr Vijay Mallya's Siachen to third spot.

"I knew both Moonlight Romance and Sunlight would beat Siachen," Katrak told MiD DAY in a post-race interview, "Siachen is a very good filly over the mile, but lacks staying power, while both my fillies are very stout stayers."

Interestingly, the bookmakers also held the same view as Katrak if the pre-race odds were any indication. Despite Siachen having beaten Moonlight Romance twice, the bookies opened Moonlight Romance as firm favourite during the ante-post betting, quoting 8 to 10 on her, while Siachen was offered at 7 to 4. However, an inspired betting spree by Siachen's followers made the two fillies almost joint favourites by race time--Moonlight Romance closed at 13-10, while Siachen settled at 14-10.

The six runners were dispatched to an even start as the gates opened at 5.30 pm, and Sun Elegance shot to the front to set pace followed by Sunlight. The duo at one time opened a 15-length gap over Frost Fairy and Moonlight Romance, followed by Siachen and Carousal. Sunlight soon took over the running and brought the field of six into home view by which time Richard Hughes astride Moonlight Romance had started gaining ground and places, with Siachen (CD Hayes up) also attempting to improve. However, Moonlight Romance easily had the measure of Sunlight (P Mulrennan up) midway in the homestretch, and with Siachen a spent force by the distance post, the China Visit - Wandering Star filly bred at the Usha stud lengthened the margin of victory over stable mate Sunlight to finally spare four-and-a-half lengths in a good time of 2 minutes 29 seconds which less than half a second outside the course record set by Jacqueline during the Indian Derby last year.

R K Wadhawan, chief honcho of sponsor HDIL who, incidentally, also owns winner Moonlight Romance, put in one of his rare appearances at the track to lead in the Oaks winner along with partner Prem Tharani. When MiD DAY asked Tharani if Moonlight's Oaks performance was more impressive than his other horse Ocean And Beyond, the 2000 Guineas winner, he said, "She won very well today, but I still think he (Ocean And Beyond) is better." Tharani however was quick to add that his third Derby prospect, Sun Kingdom, will be running in the Bangalore Derby on the Republic Day, he will also be ridden by Richard Hughes, and added, "Only after watching that run we will be able to form our final opinion as to who could be our main Derby hope."

Trainer Katrak was not surprised by Tharani's reaction when MiD DAY shared it with him. "That's his opinion, and I think even Richard (Hughes) feels the same way," he said, "frankly, at this point I don't know if Moonlight Romance will run in the Derby. As a rule, fillies need more time to recover from a mile-and-a-half run, so I will take a fresh look at her after a week and then take the call about the Derby. I will share my opinion with the owners who will then take the final decision."

The day's proceedings were dominated by trainer Pesi Shroff who picked up three races with Amadeus (Goold S Poonawalla Million), Star Alliance (Rajpipla Trophy) and Floods Of Fortune (Satinello Trophy), while trainer Hormuz Antia and jockey Imran Chisty also combined to win with three well-backed horses in Mystic Temple who won the Harrish Mehra Trophy, and Albuurz & Rising Glory who won the upper and lower divisions respectively of the Tricumdas Dwarkadas Trophy.

(c) MiD DAY

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