Richard Hughes stole the Gr 1 Kingfisher Bangalore Derby, the richest race of the Bangalore Racing Calendar on Moonlight Romance with a trade mark tactical ride on Sunday. If any race was determined by jockey factor, this was it. Jockey Suraj Narredu on Sun Kingdom failed to customize his ride to suit the rapidly changing scenario and his decision to stick to the patented style cost him and trainer Irfan Ghatala the first ever win in this prestigious race.
The jockey plays a crucial role in shaping the destiny of a champion. There is need for quick response from the jockey if the race does not run in the way as planned. Moonlight Romance was not expected to race with the pacesetter but ridden from behind as has been the practice in the past. Richard Hughes perhaps wanted to tuck the horse behind the front runners from the outside draw but the horse got keen and was intent on taking off. Hughes had to restrain her and it took a while before she relaxed behind the pace setter Moon Star. Judging by his reaction, it is also possible that if he was unable to get the filly to settle, Hughes may not have hesitated to race in front unlike many of our jockeys who would rather fight with a horse rather than react instinctively.
Moonlight Romance [CHINA VISIT(USA)/WANDERING STAR] (R Hughes Up), winner of The Kingfisher Bangalore Derby Gr-I 2010
Moon Star and Moonlight Romance were followed by Vijay Monarch, Eloise, Xisca, Ordained One, The Leader, Immense, Sun Kingdom and Foreign Exchange. The order remained more or less the same till the field negotiated the final bend. Hughes pushed Moonlight Romance to take over the running at the top of the straight and the filly quickened nicely to establish what turned out to be a winning lead. Suraj Narredu on Sun Kingdom was caught napping by the turn of events as Moonlight Romance had taken charge much earlier than he would have anticipated and as a result the favourite was left to cover plenty of leeway which proved to be his downfall. With the only possible threat in front, Suraj would have been wiser had he decided to stay more close to the front runner but since his reaction time was slower than expected, he ended up being on the runner up.
Richard Hughes drove out Moonlight Romance with all the resources at his command and had the race sewn up with a furlong to go. Though Moonlight Romance was slowing down in the end, Sun Kingdom could only bridge the gap to a shade over a length. The 1-2 for owner Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan was a forgone conclusion but the interest in the race was confined to the order of the finish and the competition among the professionals associated with the horses which belonged to different stables. In a cluster finish about seven and half lengths adrift, Xisca edged out Foreign Exchange, Eloise and Immense for the third spot. This was the first Derby success for Cooji Katrak outside of his home centre. For Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan who started owning horses two years ago, this was his first ever Derby success.
The Derby provided a great result for Usha Stud Farm whose resident stallion China Visit (Red Ransom) finally broke the jinx with a big classic success. Apart from Moonlight Romance, the third placed Xisca was also by China Visit.
''We believe in racing our horses to perform to their optimum potential all the time,'' said Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan during the post race interview.
''We don't brook any interference in this regard,'' he added. He was obviously referring to the incident pertaining to Sun Spirit who was withdrawn from fray in the last minute a fortnight ago following allegation of tampering by trainer Irfan Ghatala against his assistant to prevent the horse from running on merits. Trainer Irfan Ghatala was left to rue at the lost opportunity along with jockey Suraj Narredu who may or may not accept the fact that he could have possibly erred in his tactics. As a leading trainer put it aptly:
''Quite often, the best ridden horse wins at the expense of the horse with best credentials.''
Jaggy Dhariwal trained Aprilia who had lost her way after three impressive wins in her first season, had been blazing the track and keeping with expectation that she had bounced back to his juvenile form, she came up with a blistering turn of foot with a furlong left in the race, to sail past the front running Polish Patriot to win the Mumbai Cup with great deal of ease. Polish Patriot, who had won out of turn last time out, did not show any progress from that run and was a well beaten second. Tanzanite, who led from the front, ran on to finish third. Eagle Claws who was backed down spiritedly, did not look the part in the paddock, was restless at the gates and never came into contention at any stage of the race. She needs a break.
Padmanabhan's Topkapi who was well placed in scales, tracked Blink well into the straight and then skipped away to record a facile win in the hands of Ashhad Asbar in the 1800 metres Kolkata Cup. Classic winner Youre So Beautiful, who was running after a longish absence from the track, was ring rusty. The weight too was a burden as the going was yielding but she did well to finish a good second.
Sky Train was nursed at the back in the Chennai Cup before Hughes gradually improved position through the shortest way to get the measure of Skyliner and Balas Glory in the closing stages of the Chennai Cup.
Last time failed favourite Supremacy made amends in the Mysore Cup (Div I) by getting the measure of the Foswell with a furlong out, and then held off the spirited bid of Vernostpnus. Valahak ran below par. The silken touch f Hughes was evident in the manner he rode top weighted Sun Control from behind to get the measure of front running Amber Star and Royal Surprise in the shadow of the post in the lower division of the race.
Senor Speedy and Born To Fly fought the final 300 metres of the race in the S N Harish Memorial Trophy before the latter asserted his supremacy.
Ganapathy trained Magisterial had impressed tremendously in a mock race and he ran to that expectation while swamping the opposition. Dance To The Tune finished far away second ahead of Spark of Desire and Con Artiste, the last named disappointing yet again, being out of depth against a quality opposition.
Sharat Kumar's Southern King built on his good forward run in his previous essay, to win the Delhi Cup (Div I), with great deal of comfort from Act of Duty and Sher Dil. Cash Is King obliged in the lower division, easily containing the challenge of favourite True Impression who had too much of leeway to cover from the back on the eventual winner.