River Melody would be lucky if she wins another handicap sprint in a hurry this season. The Daniel David-trained filly, following her 1,200m Army Cup victory, on Boxing Day, finds herself overshooting the standard topweight of 60 kg in Class II. The Sizziling Melody-River Chase daughter does, however, qualify to contest against a top class set with lighter impost.
However, considering the richness of horseflesh at that level, and also there being little provision in the winter prospectus for 1,200m sprints between now and April 4, the three-year-old River Melody may have to resign her fate to the terms sprints like the HSBC Cup because she has not been accepted for the Eveready Sprinters Trophy on New Year’s Day.
To prove the point, the six acceptors in contention for the Eveready sprint have also exposed the potential of the likes of River Melodys. All those in the New Year’s Day sprint line-up belong to the five-year-olds (as on January 1) and upwards age group.
River Melody herself stood exposed when she failed to record a fluent victory in the hands of Mark Gallagher. She led almost from the start after jockey S. Shanker on Callisto tried to take matters in his own hands as soon as the starter dispatched the field. However, Gallagher was quick to bring the favourite back on her toes, and she also managed to establish a sizeable lead nearing the distance post. River Melody, nevertheless, failed to maintain the margin of lead once Shanker put the Vijay Singh-filly in the top gear. It was only a shade under a length that separated the two at the wire.
Both being three-year-olds, normally, one would have bracketed the two fillies as the better class horses, had a mare named Ispahan, who, shouldering a weight almost identical to that of River Melody, not come a close third only a length behind. Ispahan, incidentally, having reached her mark in class II, does not speak very highly for the two three-year-olds unless they make big improvement.
Shining Jewel, the hot 3-10 favourite, in contrast, won his race, the 2,000m Vaidya Memorial Cup, far more easily, by eight lengths to be precise. But the Vijay Singh-trainee too faces a similar problem as his weight has been, rightly, pushed to the top by the handicapper. To be honest, the three-year-old beat nothing of consequence and if the likes of Actuates and Black Manes were horses of parts, they would not be rotting in Class III.
Shining Jewel’s next engagement is learnt to be the Derby, on January 5, and it may come as a surprise if he does not end up as a passenger in the prime classic. He faces his toughest test in the handicap race that he is likely to contest next.
Barring River Melody, Shining Jewel and Gul, lesser-fancied horses otherwise, ruled the afternoon. In fact, the 5-4 favourite, Gul, too, was lucky to scrape through because the topweight Positive Thinker was never at ease with his heavy impost, though Rutherford Alford tried his best as he nursed the natural inclinations of the five-year-old, to shoot upfront, soon after the start.
Rutherford was, however, at his best in the baby race, the 1,100m Platonic Plate when partnering Richie Rich. Rutherford never allowed cousin Cristopher (on 5-4 favourite Admirer) to break the rhythm of his ride and preferred to settle for a chase instead of burning up the 7-2 fancy early in the race. Collecting his charge, Rutherford brought the Batzushka-Grand Start two-year-old with renewed vigour in the stretch run to put paid the aspirations of Admirer to justify his heavy wagering. The Kly Green-Admiring son, in fact weakened to place third behind Monalisa, another one in the betting.
Amaryllis was a good thing lost, thanks to Sagittarian taking the Vijay Singh-trainee wide in the stretch run thus leaving a huge gap in the middle of the track for the unfancied Alborada to gallop to glory in the 1,100m Brogue Handicap.