The Pune Racecourse has a couple of very special races on offer for horse racing enthusiasts in India this weekend. These high stakes races include a Grade 3 Sprint Million and the very famous local Pune Derby, a Grade 1 race of considerable repute.
The Sunday racing schedule is packed to the brim with eight races, involving a total of 67 horses. Here is our detailed overview of the selected races. You’ll also get the three most interesting contenders for Sunday in each of them.
The Noshir & Dolly Dhunjibhoy Sprint Million
In a mild contrast to its rather long title name, this Grade 3 race only over a distance of approximately 1200m from start to finish. As the sixth race of the day, it acts as a prelude to the main act, the Pune Derby. Scheduled to start at 03:45 PM, the Sprint Million will see 7 experienced horses above the age of 4 years take part. With five horses rated above 90, the quality of the field in this one is quite appealing.
These three horses look the strongest at the moment:
In his 11 starts so far, this four-year-old bay gelding has only finished outside the top three on two occasions. With 7 wins overall, and a current record of 3 consecutive wins, the son of Strong Suit (USA) looks like the leading favorite for this race. Trained by Imtiaz A Sait, Iron Age will be ridden by jockey YS Srinath in Sunday’s race.
With 16 top-four finishes after 22 races, this six-year-old progeny of Phoenix Tower (USA) has garnered a reputation of solid reliability. Though he only has five wins to his credit, the bay stallion will start as one of the favorites, with jockey Imran Khan in the saddle. Trainer Bezan Chenoy will be hoping for a repeat of the last race. Back then, St Andrews won at the end of September in Pune.
Half-brother of St Andrews sired by Phoenix Tower, this seven-year-old bay gelding hails from the stables of trainer MK Jadhav. An excellent record of 22 top-four finishes out of 26 races, with 8 wins, marks him out as a very seasoned campaigner and a firm favorite among the punters. Though he is in a bit of a lean spell, having finished 8-6-5 in the last three races, Governor-General should never be written off. Especially, with jockey A Sandesh in the saddle.
We expect a close tussle between Iron Age and St Andrews, and we favor Iron Age to muscle ahead and win and is our pick as long as the bookmakers starting listing at 5/1 odds or longer. Governor-General is as solid a choice for a long shot as you could ever hope for.
The Pune Derby – Grade I
Derbies are usually all-star affairs involving the highest-rated young horses in that season. The Grade 1 race at Pune is generally considered as one of the lower standard events in the Indian racing calendar. However, this is mostly due to its timing. The young horses are barely worked at this time of the year, making for a race with low average ratings.
But still, with nine young colts and fillies, this year’s event should provide plenty of excitement in this 2000m race. Here are our top three picks for this year’s Pune Derby:
With two wins out of three starts, the son of Varenar (FR) looks like a good choice in the derby. Trained by LVR Deshmukh, he will be looking to get back to winning ways after a fourth-place finish in his last race. NS Parmar is the jockey for this race.
Yet to be beaten after two races, the son of Arazan (IRE) and Saffron Dancer (IRE) will probably be the gelding to beat in this race on Sunday. Trainer Altaf Hussein will be hoping for a hattrick of wins as Suleiman takes to the track with A Sandesh in the saddle.
One of the more experienced young three-year-olds in this race, this dark brown gelding is the son of Surfrider (IRE). He has competed in six races so far, winning one and finishing second in four more. A consistent runner, he will certainly be a hot choice among punters on Sunday. CS Jodha will hold the reins.
Sultan Suleiman has the pedigree and form on his side and looks likely to win. But if any horse can put a spanner in the works, it would have to be Trouvaille. As a long-shot pick, Prince Valiant is a sensible choice. Our pick for the derby is Sultan Suleiman as long as the odds-makers start listing at 5/1 or longer.
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