In spite of seasoned campaigners like Lockers Park, Calamint, Ispahan and Alsheim being in the opposition, the Gavin Johnston Cup last Friday was considered easy pickings for the favourite, Royal City. It was because age and form was on his side, even if the slated trip of 1,400m was considered a trifle sharp for the Inner City-Ruby Lights three-year-old from trainer Daniel David’s yard. However, it turned out to be a close call in the final stages of the race when Lockers Park, a trusted galloper from Bharath Singh’s yard, came with a menacing rail-side run to take the fight to the dark room.
The neck verdict gained in the
photo-print, by visiting jockey Amyn Merchant, was, however, never in doubt as Royal City was eased up a stride before the winning post. In fact, Merchant is known to detest punishing his rides unnecessarily. His sense of positioning his charge – particularly halfway through the trips – has always been admirably good and he again demonstrated his mettle in the next event, the Nero Handicap.
Riding another of stable’s distance customer Star Selection, over a 1,200m sprint, Amyn was at his task right from the word ‘go’ and made his three-year-old filly gallop in close attendance of Starina and Anatolia – both speed merchants. The fact that the filly was conceding in excess of 10kg to her contemporary but speedy rival, Anatolia made it a difficult task for the Green Forest-Classic Story daughter. Amyn, however, had other ideas. He took the measure of the two speedsters 100m from home to return a worthy winner.Cristopher Alford, too, demonstrated plenty of guts when he guided the topweighted Altigraph, from Vijay Singh’s yard, to a short-head victory over a lesser fancied Gul in the High Born Handicap. The 6-10 favourite was however, contesting an event meant for those rated below 18. But the one who impressed immensely despite her triumph against a similar opposition in the Ootman Handicap was Artisia, a very little experienced four-year-old filly. She won like a champion and it would not be out of place to mention that the Serious Spender-Crown Collection daughter could win her share of races if she holds on in training.
Kainat was a worthy winner of the Twilight Lady Cup over 1,400m. The Javed Khan-trainee did, in her customary manner, shift out badly when under pressure up in the home straight, yet she had over a length to spare to Alborada. The 6-4 favourite Amaryllis was a poor third and the Cristofori-Kafiyah trainee from Vijay’s yard could do better over a shorter sprint.