When Network carried his top weight to a fluent two-length-plus victory, last Wednesday over a 1,200m sprint, he also exhibited his undisputed class against the local challengers. Basically, a Bangalore-based horse, the Twist And Turn-Net Net Net four-year-old had performed creditably last winter in the city classics, including a smart victory in the 2000 Guineas.
Network’s target this season is, obviously the rich ‘terms’ races over middle distances which are known to be his strength. Therefore, the Hyderabad Turf Club Cup was just a lead up race or a dress rehearsal for the Vijay Singh-trainee. And to also prove a point that he was equally at home over a sprint, Network was happily settled in close proximity of the leader Barrier Ridge before jockey C. Alford made him hit the front 200m from home.
The fact that Network was set to concede as much as 10 kg to Barrier Ridge and yet managed to beat the sprint specialist comfortably, it only goes on to justify the class of the former. The race was run at a hot pace and the timing of one minute 12.8 seconds clocked by the winner in the first month of the big season adds to his already enhanced status.
Equally brilliant was the winning effort of Alexine, Vijay’s earlier winner on the day. Also a Twist And Turn-progeny, but a filly, out of Kabuki, Alexine was not only running at a handicap disadvantage against Terrificco and Blue Chip, but also without a preparatory run over a 2,000m trip. Still, she won the Our Owen Handicap without a fuss.
The Darbhanga Cup 1,400m sprint was a thriller, though the 7-4 public-choice, Arrayal ended up on the losing side. In fact, a not-too-reliable five-year-old Dashing Chief was in his galloping mood and the Daniel David-trainee turned the tables on Bharath Singh’s four-year-old favourite. Moreover, when opponent is an older horse and benefited by an outing, it normally enjoys advantage over a younger rival. Jockeyship too matters in such cases but Amyn Merchant with his powerful pushings just about managed to secure the verdict in the crunch situation. It was only a short-head verdict that separated the two horses and, perhaps, Alford’s effort to steal a glance or two over his shoulder in the final 200m might have made that much of a difference.
However, a visibly tired Merchant was given his own doze of medicine by a relatively week rider Surjeet Singh in the following event, the 1,200m Glen Muick Handicap. But more than the jockey the credit goes to Surjeet’s ride Lucifer, a gallant hearted galloper who beat Merchant’s 7-10 hot-favourite Pearl Dragon by the proverbial whisker. In hot chase of the speedster Common Spirit till the home turn, Lucifer took over to hold on bravely and to foil the favourite’s late surge.
Blushing Queen left her monsoon saga of heavily letting down on a couple of occasions behind and returned to winning ways to present trainer Daniel with his second winner on the day. The Sizzling Melody-Special Girl daughter definitely detested the wet conditions of the monsoon track. She happily went from pillar to post victory but Merchant had to keep her going to hold back a late finishing Amaryllis by a shade over a length.
Trainer H.S. Bath, too, was among winners – Rhineheart in the Whiplash Handicap and Tequila Shot in the concluding event, the Kalied Handicap.