Horse racing: Forest Flame wins Poonawalla Multi-Millon

Updated: Feb 24, 2020, 11:25 IST | Prakash Gosavi | Mumbai

Forest Flame had such massive fan following that she was backed to the exclusion of all her rivals, her odds sent crashing to 10 to six on at race time from the morning 14 to 10 against

Forest Flame (David Egan up) at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse yesterday. Pic/ Bipin Kokate
Forest Flame (David Egan up) at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse yesterday. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

The Suleiman Attaollahi-trained Forest Flame justified the faith of her followers by claiming the Grade 1, Poonwalla Breeders' Multi-Million (PBMM), the feature event of Sunday's eight-race card at Mahalaxmi. Forest Flame had such massive fan following that she was backed to the exclusion of all her rivals, her odds sent crashing to 10 to six on at race time from the morning 14 to 10 against. David Egan rode her to victory.

Interestingly, the Poonawallas almost monopolised their own race as not only the winner Forest Flame, but even the runner up Golden Oaks (D Allan up) and the third-placed Lombardy (A Sandesh up) were not only bred by them but also raced in their famous colours of red, white maltese cross and striped sleeves. In a post-race comment, Zavaray Poonawalla had to explain, "I am happy that our horses finished 1-2-3 today, but we actually want this race to be won by horses not bred or owned by us. This race was started 31 years ago to encourage the Indian breeding industry and honour superstar juveniles."

Forest Fame (Leitir Mor - Memory Bay) is owned by the ladies in the family of RWITC chairman Zavaray Poonawalla—wife Behroze and daughters Delna and Simone—in partnership with Mumbai men Mukul Sonawala & DR Thacker, and C Kanthraj Urs of Mysore.

David vs. David

When the starter flagged them off, Lombardy quickly hit the front followed by Golden Oaks, with Air Blast, Forest Flame and Violin forming a line of three a couple of lengths behind the duo, but not more than half a dozen lengths covered the entire field. On turning for straight, Lombardy immediately dipped into her reserve fuel and stepped up the pace, with David Allan astride Golden Oaks giving her a chase, with Air Blast (N Mackay up) attempting to match strides with Forest Flame on whom David Egan started working after passing the two-furlong marker.

After overpowering Lombardy in a speedy duel, David Allan astride Golden Oaks tried his best to run away with the race, causing anxious moments to the followers of the favourite and eventual winner Forest Flame. But David Egan kept up the pressure on Forest Flame bringing her up with a sustained gallop, and managed to pass David Allan and Golden Oaks with barely 60 meters to go. The final margin of victory was one-and-a-quarter length; the time was 1 minute 22.26 seconds for the seven-furlong trip.

David Egan was star performer of the day, having won three races including the feature event. He was the chief architect for the team of foreign riders who decisively beat Indian riders' team in the "clash of the titans". The Poonawalla-bred horses dominated not only the feature race as mentioned above, but also swept half of the card, winning four of the eight contests.

Lady Luck

The bumper prize of the "free contest of skill", over the years, has been consistently won by the so-called novices. Urmila Kamble, from the general enclosure, kept up that tradition. There were 45 correct entries which had predicted the first four finishers of the PBMM race, but in a lucky draw held to decide the winner of the bumper prize among those 45 participants, it was Urmila who drove away with the Honda Amaze car.

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