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Bhungard wards cashed in on fitness

Trainer Errol Bhungard, relatively new in the business, could not have asked for more than a quadruple of winners, his first, on Thursday, the opening day of the season. Barring Ballet Master’s win in the feature event, the Turf Hawk Cup, it was an authoritative demonstration of fitness by the rest of his winners.

However, Ballet Master was never allowed a free galloping room by Moon Mission who maintained an erratic course throughout the entire stretch-run. Significantly, five of the seven winners on the cards sported the MAM Ramaswamy and his son, MAMR Muthiah’s colours, and the visiting jockey K. Kariappa partnered three of them to victory.

Again, apprentice Gajender Singh could have checked Moon Mission’s erroneous run early in the home straight. If so, it may have helped trainer Daniel David match his day’s tally with his former deputy, Bhungard. In the race, Moon Mission continued to take Ballet Master out and scored by the proverbial whisker.

An expected objection followed and after a prolonged inquiry lasting nearly 45 minutes, Moon Mission was stripped of the winning bracket in the stewards’ room.

In fact, it was Daniel who set the ball rolling for the racing baron. In the opener, the Hydrofoil Handicap, Daniel’s Bigshow came up with a quiet support and out-sprinted Vijay Singh’s Altigraph who had gone to the start as a firm half-money favourite.

Attracting tonnes of money in the betting ring, Daniel’s Smart Charmer was backed from 4’s down to 5-4 and the four-year-old made short work of the opposition as he assumed charge from the start to ultimately win by a distance. The well-bred Placerville-Million Girl son may strike again.

With Daniel through with his winners, Bhungard took over the mantle. Starting off with his strongly fancied runner Gallant Romeo in the Young Lady Handicap, Bhungard continued with the good work through April Ace, Schumacher and, of course, Ballet Master.

Gallant Romeo faced initial resistance from Flossy but the six-year-old turned out to be far more fitter as he skated clear of his rivals nearing the home-turn to ultimate win by a six long lengths.

April Ace followed suit, with a flourishing run in the straight to bury hopes of a heavily wagered King’s Crest from Vijay’s yard. The third placed Software Classic found the 1,000m scurry too hot to handle and could do better over a slightly extended course.

It was to Bhungard’s discomfiture that the stable-fancy Brave Venture’s efforts were found wanting while Schumacher, sporting identical colours, spurted to victory after taking charge mid-way through the race. The eight-year-old and 2-1 favourite Brave Venture, ridden by Kariappa, was tried in earnest but age worked to the advantage of the six-year-old.

Schumacher, besides, Followme was the only other winner sans MAM and his allied colours. Despite her top-weight of 60-1/2 kg, the Bharath Singh-trainee won with a degree of comfort.


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