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AGELESS WARRIOR COMMANDER LIFTS STEWARDS CUP
KOLKATA
By Epsom Ace
Saturday 23 Sep 2017
Trainer Vijay Singh leading Commander (S John Up), winner of The Stewards Cup

Though long in the  tooth, trainer Vijay Singh’s Commander (Noverro-Momentarily/ Sohna Stud) moved with raking strides in the final furlong of the 1400m race for The Stewards Cup to get the better of the course favourite Shivalik Storm and Rule Downunder who were fighting for supremacy at the head of the five-horse field. Second in demand in the ring, the eight-year-old was held back by rider S John for a late charge and it paid rich dividends. The Vijay-John combo thus notched up a brace, having tasted success with the filly Akshaya in The Affection Plate. Back-to-back doubles by Vijay Singh has placed him at the head of the trainers’ championship table. With three more racedays to go before the end of the short season, Vijay’s chief contenders for bagging the top honour are his brother Bharath and brother-in-law Patrick Quinn.

Trainer Shyam Habbu bagged his maiden win of the season with a rank outsider – El Magnifico (Arazan-Wolar Stonita/ Exhilaration Stud). He got the better of the favourite Danceress with ridiculous ease despite having been among the also-rans in his four outings at this centre.  The favourite tried start-to-finish tactics but found nothing extra when challenged by the surprise package. The other two fancied runners – Rachmaninoff and Xlite – were disappointments. Danceress is sure to improve after this forward run. She had reportedly undergone a caslick operation three weeks earlier.

The afternoon commenced with trainer Daniel David and his connections landing a major gamble on Desert Cat (Hurricane Center-Hit it Here Cafe/ Singh Stud) with B Mahesh astride. The four-year-old made very post of the Dancing Leaves Handicap a winning one.

In a similar vein, apprentice RS Bhati took Arti Doctor-trained Arabian Sky (ArabianGulf-Leeward Passage/ Manjri Stud) to the helm of affairs as the gates opened in the 1100m race for The Echoes Of Light Handicap and stayed there all the way despite shifting off a straight course.

The Vijay-John combo were seen in action in The Affection Plate as the filly Akshaya (Varenaar-Spiffy/ Equus Stud) came with telling strides under the rider’s urgings to peg back runaway Archivolt at the wire. Apprentice Bhati rightly tried similar tactics as with Arabian Sky but failed narrowly. 

Consistent Bang Bang (Stardan-Ballad of Glory/ Rolli Stud) continued his merry journey to the highest class by getting the better of Scarlet Emperor in the six-furlong race for The Hearts Handicap (Division I). Jockey NS Parmar’s hard finish on this big-hearted animal did the trick as he overhauled the runner-up in the final 100 metres to land the spoils.

The lower division of the race saw Christopher Alford atop James Mc Keown-trained Invincible Prince (Invincible Spirit-Rossa Di Rugiada/ Sohna Stud) win an absolute thriller from Simran’s Choice. Alford managed to coax a gallop out of the top-weight in the closing stages of the race to fetch home the honours.