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Super Storm at the Mahalaxmi

Super Storm blew the opposition away in the Gr 1 McDowell Indian Derby to win the mega event of Indian Racing Calendar in front of a record crowd of over 27,000 on Sunday. In the absence of a super star, the Indian Derby had an open look about and it had 17 hopefuls. Things fell in place for the Hazara Stud Farm bred Super Strom who got everything right under a tactical ride by Jimmy Fortune. The Irish jockey who was riding in India after a gap of 11 years, thus won his second Indian Derby. Fortune had steered Star Supreme to victory in the 1998 edition of the race. The day which saw many records of sorts being created, Satish Narredu became the second professional after Pesi Shroff to win the coveted event both as a jockey and as trainer.

It was a great comeback by the son of Rebuttal. After running second to Borsalino in the Bangalore Sumer Derby, Super Storm had come within striking distance of winning the Mysore Derby but was surprised in the final strides of the race by Wind Stream. Thereafter Super Storm showed decline in form finishing fourth to Wind Stream in the Guineas confirming the form of the Mysore Derby. When Super Storm lost to the unheralded Red Baron in the Bangalore Winter Derby, very few reckoned that the four year old colt had reserved his best for the biggest Derby of Indian racing calendar.

Success comes the way of people who persist and Satish brought Super Storm to race in the Indian Derby despite the horse not living up to expectation. His trust in his ward was vindicated when Super Storm beat his nemesis Wind Stream despite running within a week of running over an identical trip at Bangalore. Fortune favours the brave goes the saying and in the fitness of things, it was a jockey named so who gave a flawless ride to give the trainer, jockey and owner connections the chance to fulfill their life time dream. The horse is owned among others by Mrs Rajamma who once worked at the turnstiles at the Bangalore Turf Club. Her mega success should be an inspiration for many that nothing is too big to dream about.

As Jimmy Fortune was to say later, there was no super star in the race and it was his belief that if things fell in place, he had a chance to pull it off. ''I was very lucky because the race fell in my lap as I had a trouble free passage though there was a bit of turbulence all around. The pace suited me fine and I must say that Wind Stream was unlucky to have been drawn on the extreme outside.''

Wind Stream had more takers than the rest but at a quote of 5 to 1, it was obvious to everyone that the outcome of the race was hard to predict as the luck of the race was bound to have a bearing. There were many runners in the fray who otherwise would not have found a place in a good year and their progress or the lack of it was also going to be a factor in the race. There were more apprehensions that clarity about the race. Super Storm led briefly before Fortune eased him in about the fourth position. Angel Crown and An Acquired Taste cramped Borsalino at the first bend causing the jockey almost to be unseated. The horse stumbled and thereafter was not in contention at any stage of the race and the jockey too dismounted after crossing the post. Angel Crown and Montezuma then went ahead to set a slow pace and there was a fair bit of jostling at the back as the others jockeyed for positions. Machiavellianism was within striking distance of the front runners.

With the pace setters losing steam at the final bend, it was Machiavellianism who showed up with an aggressive thrust and shaped like a winner. In the meanwhile, Fortune had bought Super Strom into contention alongside of the Indian 2000 Guineas winner and it took some distance before the latter gained ascendancy. Machiavellianism weakened as he bled and faded out of contention. Wind Stream, who had covered places from the rear group, came up with a menacing run but found the front runner escape to the safety of the winning post. Wind Stream's finishing kick and his closeness at the finish was a frustrating one for the connections though Martin did his best to salvage the situation. Richard Hughes who had nursed Hemisphere for the final assault gave hopes of a big upset but the progeny of Mull of Kintyre tired out in the end and lost the runner up berth to Wind Stream by a whisker. Machiavellianism who extended himself to the point of exhaustion bled and finished fourth. Shivalik Hero was widely expected to put up a brave performance was not up to it while Calcutta Derby hero Snowscape was completely outclassed and was not spotted at the busy end. An Acquired State ran into rough weather at a crucial stage of the race as jockey John could not get a clear run down the inside and was choked for a passage.

Satish Narredu said that he was extremely confident of a good performance and this was the reason why he brought his horse though he was racing within a short span. ''The horse travelled well and I was lucky to get the services of Jimmy Fortune. The moment is yet to sink in.'' Satish had ridden Dr M A M Ramaswamy owned Amazing Bay to Indian Derby victory in the year 1996.

Joint owners Vijay Shirke, Khushro Dhunjibhoy and Berjis Minoo Desai have the unique distinction of their jointly owned horses hold course records over four varying trips. Their fourth one was achieved when Bulls Eye won a five furlong scurry in a record time of 57.7 seconds. Amadeus holds the record for the six furlongs while Cabriolet enjoys that distinction for the trip over 1400 metres. Jacqueline has the record for the Derby trip. All these horses are incidentally trained by Pesi Shroff. Khushro is also owner of Diego Rivera which has the record for the nine furlong trip and this horse also is from the yards of Pesi Shroff.

''The reach of the sport has really expanded with the digitization. I am sure the sport will get bigger through right packaging,'' said a satisfied RWITC Chairman K N Dhunjibhoy at the end of a highly successful weekend of racing. The viewership of the Indian Derby has taken a giant leap, he concluded.