The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stipes’ effort not enough

The stipendiary stewards (stipes) performed a commendable job last Thursday but the stewards undermined their effort as the august body took a soft line even against a serious crime like tampering of the saddle weight.

Jockey Amyn Merchant and his valet Kali were caught red handed by the stipes while the duo was in the process of smuggling in one kg of lead weight before the weighing-in formalities were completed. Whatever the reason that prompted the duo to resort to unfair means, the offence was serious enough to send each of the two packing for at least six months. Instead, Merchant was handed a suspension of only three weeks while the poor valet was made the scapegoat and banned from the race course for about two months.

The racing circles were left aghast by the dare-devilry of the duo and termed their act as a criminal offence. They also questioned the disparity in sentences awarded to the two. Can the law be different for the one who steals and one, who retains the stolen property, asked some. The buck was apparently passed on to the one who owned up for his master’s crime, and for obvious reasons. The duo was, however, repentant and repeatedly pleaded “sorry sir,” but the stipes was also firm as they thought it might have been a regular practice.

Nevertheless, the biggest loser on the day was trainer Bharath Singh whose fine effort of saddling four winners was played down by turfites because of the hot debate that followed. Bharath’s favourites

matched the score with his out-siders to make it a mixed bag.

Starting off with Blue Chip, a quietly fancied horse at 8-1, Bharath biggest kill was made by his classic filly Evangeline who not only gave allround weight to each of her five rivals, the Excalibur’s Lake-Glowing Tribute daughter also silenced her critics questioning her distance limitations. She won handsomely by a shade under nine lengths from Brighter Future who made most of the running, over the 1,400m trip, before being humbled by the winner 300m from home.

Alcalde produced his known late run and accounted for the fighting duo of River Melody and a heavily fancied Allabreva who was back to the track after more than an year.

Aiberni, too, made a run-of-the-mill-like effort as the five-year-old gelding waited behind a runaway Sky Command till 300m from home before shooting into the lead to keep an inching up closer Midas Touch at bay.

Sharing the top-spot last week with Davaro was no achievement for Great Ambition and thus the Daniel David-trained three-year-old was forced a quick entry to justify his credentials. The Tecorno-Loire Princess son won from the start, though his stable-mate Far Hope hardly seemed to be keen to play a spoilsport.

Rated as a very ordinary horse Royal Command had been entering the Winners’ enclosure quite frequently. Therefore, his back-to-back win hardly came as a surprise when the Errol Bhungard-trained four-year-old had a comfortable measure of the topweighted On The Bit and Athinai. Make a note of the last named horse who needs an extra bit of galloping ground than the slated 1,000m scurry to score.

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