In The Spotlight comes up with a Derby special

Captain Jamshed Appoo, a god-fearing soul who never hid the fact that he loved betting big, did not place a wager on his filly In The Spotlight (Martin Dwyer up) who annihilated her dozen rivals to win the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Gr 1) at the Mahalaxmi racetrack yesterday. The reason was that he had promised to God he would stop betting big if his filly won for him the greatest race that had eluded both him and his trainer S Padmanabhan for so many years despite many close attempts.

Big day: Jockey Martin Dwyer rides In The Spotlight to victory in the
Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi racetrack yesterday. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

"Yes, that's true," Captain Appoo confessed to MiD DAY after the race, "I had prayed to God for my filly's victory in the Derby, and made that promise. God has granted my wish, and I will now keep my word."
The Alnasr Alwasheek -- Radiate four-year-old filly bred at the Poonawalla stud farm thus changed life for her owner in more than one way. "No big betting for me now," Appoo added, laughing, "I might punt a tener on the tote for old times' sake."

The starter flagged off the field of 13 classy runners, who jumped off to a level start from opposite the the winning post, where they would return after traversing the entire oval of the Mahalaxmi track that would measure a mile-and-a-half--the precise distance of the race which is viewed as the greatest test of both
speed and stamina for four year old horses.

Pronto Star set a very fast pace to lead the Derby field, followed by Field Marshal, another runner trained by Padmanabhan, while English jockey Martin Dwyer settled In The Spotlight beautifully in third, with Smashing in mid-bunch, and Hills And Stars & Picasso in the rear.

Pronto Star ran out of steam after negotiating the final turn, at which juncture Field Marshal (David Allan up) grabbed the initiative. But Dwyer wasted no time in making his bid, and In The Spotlight swooped onto the stable mate in a trice, and with such force it was all over bar the shouting.

Dr Vijay Mallya's Smashing, the Indian Oaks winner, tried hard to go near In The Spotlight, but the effort of tackling a trip of mile-and-a-half twice in two weeks clearly told on her, and finally In The Spotlight won the 70th running of the Indian Derby by an extra-ordinary margin of seven lengths.

"Mr Chandler of bookmaking firm Victor Chandler of U K is a friend of mine," Appoo told MiD DAY, "and he was here on my invitation, and was sitting next to me. The moment Martin took a good jump and she settled in third place, I told Mr Chandler my filly would win."

Trainer Padmanabhan, for whom too this was the first ever Derby success, told MiD DAY after the race, "When Martin moved to take charge at the top of the final straight, I knew In The Spotlight would demolish them all.
"My other runner, Field Marshal went lame during the race and started changing legs in the last part, or he would have definitely finished second, or maybe possibly posed some threat to In The Spotlight, I feel."
Captain Appoo dedicated the Derby victory to trainer Nana Raghunath who two months ago died at Kolkata due to a cardiac arrest.

"It was Nana who looked after this filly in Kolkata along with Sharmila Padmanabhan, the trainer's wife," Appoo said from the presentation ceremony dias, "he was a kind soul who always helped us out, and I dedicate this victory to him."

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