• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Epsom Ace
Saturday 18 Mar 2017
Trainer Raunak Banerji leading Mr Gorgeous (C Alford Up), winner of The Elusive Pimpernel Cup

Barring Mr Gorgeous and Fortune Express, unfancied runners by and large held sway in a difficult and competitive card of seven races at RCTC on Saturday. The main event, The Elusive Pimpernel Cup, is the last sweepstakes race of the season, named after arguably the greatest racehorse that this country has seen. Rather aptly, the red-and-gold colours of the late Deepak Khaitan (who owned Elusive Pimpernel) were in prominence as the same yard’s Mr Gorgeous (Mr Mellon-Drop Dead Gorgeous) won the feature with a degree of comfort in the hands of the reliable Christopher Alford. Currently under the wings of trainer Raunak Banerji, Mr Gorgeous was given a flawless ride by Alford.  Lying a handy second behind front-runner Torino till the turning for home, Mr Gorgeous and Alford shot ahead and stayed there all the way. Aged Commander was given an inexplicable ride by Rawal as he was ridden well off the pace and finally finished a shade ahead of top-weight Captain Cook to occupy the runner-up berth.

Alford’s easiest ride of the day was Fortune Express in the Crystal Man Plate. The 10-to-6 on favourite made every post a winning one in the five-and-half furlong scurry for The Crystal Man Plate. The speedster made it a one horse race from the word go.

The afternoon commenced with Shailesh Shinde opening his account at this centre after his return from Chennai while astride Bharath Singh-trained Forest Dunes (Alnasr Alwasheek – Vale Of Leven). The five-year-old mare had had a forward run and was ridden with great understanding by Shailesh as he brought her from mid-division with a fluent run to collar Sreeyantra and Avilome Vilome.

There was a gamble on Narendra Lagad-trained Aamerican Agatta (Royal Gladiator-Lamplight) and jockey Dashrath Singh made no mistake as he brought the five-year-old mare with a strong run to collar runaway Born To Win. Apprentice Nikhil Naidu did well to hit the front as the gates opened and looked to be headed for victory midway up the straight but the front-runner shortened his strides in the final 100 metres to come to a standstill.

The Mica Empress Handicap looked an open affair from the outset and the bookmakers odds said as much. Christopher Alford wasted no time in taking the top-weight favourite King’s Crown to the helm of affairs and tried to make every post a winning one. The heavy impost had its say in the final 100 metres and the top-weight folded up. The race was picked up by Adhiraj Jodha’s Stand And Dance with Hindu Singh astride. Though receiving weight from them, Fury failed to meet the class of the top four heavy-weights.

The Alterio Handicap, for Class II runners over a sprint, was bagged by Shafiq Khan-trained Flanker (Burden Of Proof-Track Charm/ Kunigal Stud) on whom apprentice Ranidan Singh did a marvellous job. His decision to take the widest route to avoid traffic problems proved to the best and the six-year-old quite easily got the better of course favourite Leopard Creek.

The curtain came down with a stunning upset in The Commuter Handicap as rank outsider Romantic Society (China Visit-Society Dream/ Usha Stud) with Azharuddin astride got the better of her well-backed rivals. However, the less said about the running of the race the better. While a couple of riders threw caution to the winds in their desperation to get a winner, the saner, more experienced riders played it cool and allowed them to have their way. Otherwise, there could well have been a very nasty accident.