My handicapping debut was not an unmitigated disaster. In Pune, Lord Jim carried even money favoritism to an easy victory. Jupiter, I believe, left his galloping shoes in his stable. Jockey S J Sunil had my hopes up with a crisp steer on Scarlet of Hope in the opener but was all at sea on Jupiter who was a lost cause a long way from home. One lesson to learn was that Jupiter hates running two races alike.
In Kolkata, Real Presence was bet as if defeat was out of the question. Torero had a ground-saving trip and was no match for Aashikaara when the heat was on. Deserving Visit had post one. She stayed in striking range. C Alford ran into a spot of trouble but there was no denying Evesham who was making his fourth start in 38 days. Deserving Visit finished behind Gentle Knowledge. It was a bitter pill for me to swallow.
Let us now take a look at today’s Pune card. The first race has two ‘in form’ horses. Blavatsky carried 60 kgs to win on July 24 in class 1-26. That form was franked when Soul Centric, second in that race, was a winner in 20-46 yesterday.
Atalya played the bridesmaid role when Iridescence won in 1- 26 in Race 26. Iridescence got an encore in 20- 46 in Race 65. Annie, Flying Show and Zahrazan, all winners this meeting, followed Iridescence home. Another noteworthy fact is that Sail Past was behind Atalya in Race 26. Sail Past was a winner yesterday.
The irrepressible Trevor Patel rides Atalya and that influences me.
Jockey Patel is aboard Jefferson in the second race. A winner in his debut, Jefferson was third and second in two subsequent starts. He carries the statutory penalty for a win. The principal adversary is Turf Dancer, a filly. She broke the duck in a field that lacked depth. I am taking Jefferson’s side.
In the third, my choice is Remember Me. He is receiving chunks of weight from Maximus and Silver Streak. Maximus has S A Amit about whom we know precious little. Silver Streak gives Remember Me 14 kgs. An Imtiaz Sait trainee, Remember Me comes off a win in Race 53 in 60-86. Remember Me was fourth behind Gold Bag in Race 16. The latter has won four in a row.
The fourth race is at the mercy of Victoria Harbour. The Phoenix Tower filly is two for two. Suraj Narredu gets the call. The Mistry establishment has been firing on all cylinders. Victoria Harbour won her debut by six. She repeated with a four-length romp.
Am I in a quandary or what? The fifth race is a 1200-metre dash (handicap) for horses in 20-46. Roman Flame, a Holy Roman Emperor filly, made a belated debut in Race 8 at Pune. What a debut it was! Roman Flame blew her maiden rivals out of the water. She has been given 62 kgs in her handicap debut and will be ridden by apprentice Abhijeet S about whom we hardly know anything. Roman Flame has drawn 10. Jockey Abhijeet claims a five-kg allowance. I am unable to make a case for Roman Flame. At the same time, I do not wish to oppose her given how brilliant her debut was.
Schiehaillon is the one to pick up the pieces if Roman Flame fails. The Aussie Rules gelding has a record that is worth a second look. Suraj Narredu gets the call.
Aquamarine is the one to beat in the sixth race. The Mastercraftsman filly could not give weight to The General in Race 37. She is back with the girls. She did well in the Mumbai winter Classics. She ticks the right boxes.
I do not have an opinion about the seventh race.
Sunday’s finale is difficult and intriguing.