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Posted on - 02 Dec 2017

- By Cyrus Naterwalla
This is one of the premier Group Races for older horses at the beginning of the season and often turns out to be quite competitive. The race was initially introduced as the “Turf Stakes” and then renamed The A.C. Ardeshir Memorial Gold Cup in memory of one of the Club’s past Chairman and a Leading Owner in his time. The name was finally converted to the A.C. Ardeshir Trophy and it remains one of the prestigious mile races in the country. The race was initially instituted as a Class IV handicap over 2000M but achieved it’s Grade 3 Status and was dropped to a mile in December 1986. Pesi Shroff won this inaugural running as a Jockey aboard Classic Jewel. The trainers who have been most successful in this race are D.N. Adenwalla, R.R. Byramji, B.K. Lagad and Imtiaz Sait – the only one among the current crop of trainers, and they have all won this race 4 times. The leading Jockeys to win this race ironically are both Trainers – Pesi Shroff 5 times and Malesh Narredu who won it thrice.
Last year’s winner was B Fifty Two who has returned to defend his Crown, holding off a strong challenge from the 1000 Guineas winner Mrs. Patmore to score a thrilling pillar to post win under a canny ride from P. Trevor while other top horses like Shivalik Storm, Onassis and Rajasthan Royals.  This year’s renewal has attracted a field of 7 runners – 2 of whom are out station challengers although they have been based in Western India for some time now. A brief analysis of the main contenders is given below.
PHOENIX TIGER  (Phoenix Tower x Tigress Noire)                     
Trainer :-      Dallas Todywalla                                
Weight :-       58.5 kg.
Jockey :-       P. Trevor                                             
Draw :-          5
Rating :-       115
This handsome and showy 5 year old Colt had an admirable record as a 3 year old and was one of the best milers going until he suffered a setback in April 2016 and was off the track for over a year so it will be quite a fairy tale if he can bounce back to winning ways today. Winner of 6 of his first 7 starts including the Bangalore Colts Trial Stakes and the Indian 2000 Guineas, his only defeat was a shock one to Ostwind in his warm up race in Bangalore. He went on to run 2nd in the Ruia and a gallant 4th in the Indian Derby before returning to demolish the opposition in the season ending Maharaja Sir Harisinghji Trophy. The setback then kept him out of racing and he returned to the track only during the recent Pune season. He was understandably rusty first time out and could only finish 6th but then ran a brave race in defeat when just edged out by Your Royal Majesty over 7 furlongs. Stepped up to 2000M for the RWITC Ltd. Gold Cup he made a brave effort but was outstayed by Aster Rose and Columbiana in the closing stages, ending up a very close 3rd just beaten a length. The drop to a mile and the 1 kilo penalty to Aster Rose should swing the pendulum slightly in his favour and P. Trevor is an excellent jockey booking. Phoenix Tiger appears to have ticks in most of the boxes and with both his Trainer and Jockey in red hot form, he appears to be the one to beat
ASTER ROSE  (Multidimensional x Lei)                 
Trainer :-      Arjun Mangalorkar                            
Weight :-      54 kg.
Jockey :-      Suraj Narredu                                     
Draw :-         4
Rating :-       109
Lion hearted filly who has really come into her own as a 4 year old, Aster Rose has had a total of 16 starts of which she has won 6 and placed 2nd in 5 of them for an excellent success percentage. She came into prominence during the Bangalore Summer when she finished a close 4th in the Fillies Trial Stakes and was then a late finishing 2nd to Serjeant At Arms in the Bangalore Derby. She ran below par in both the Hyderabad and the Indian Oaks and may have found the mile and a half too taxing but then developed into a solid middle distance filly, often chasing home Serjeant At Arms. A battling winner of  The Maharaja’s Cup in Mysore, she then travelled to Western India where she easily claimed the Fillies and Mares Stakes easily accounting for the reopposing Escala and then showed a wonderful attitude to get the better to Columbiana and Phoenix Tiger in the RWITC Ltd. Gold Cup to take her winning streak to 3. She is currently in the pink of condition and in top form so clearly would be one of the leading contenders, reunited with Suraj Narredu. However, back down to a mile, she may just find Phoenix Tiger to be that little bit better but she still runs with an outstanding chance
TEMERITY (Intense Focus  x Narmina)                 
Trainer :-      Pesi Shroff                                           
Weight :-      59 kg.
Jockey :-      Neeraj Rawal                                      
Draw :-         2
Rating :-       116
Another fabulous filly who has been wonderfully consistent throughout her career and was later found to be in season when running one of her rare poor races in the Indian St. Leger last time out. Overall she has won 7 of her 11 starts and could be deemed unlucky not to have won the Indian 1000 Guineas for which she started favourite, as she played up very badly in the gates beforehand and did not give her true running, finishing eased up. She returned with an authoritative victory in the Indian Oaks and after running a gallant 3rd in the Indian Derby, was a decisive and glorious winner of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup in Bangalore. She returned to racing after a long lay off to comfortably beat Columbiana in the Idar Gold Cup before her debacle in the St. Leger. She has been freshened up and sharpened up since that run and although she has been competing over much longer distances of late and is likely to find this trip on the sharp side, she is a strong travelling sort and if anyone were to upset the applecart of the two leading fancies, it would most likely be here. She looks an interesting outsider and could go well at a long price
B FIFTY TWO (Phoenix Tower x Baileys Online)              
Trainer :-      Imtiaz Sait                                           
Weight :-       53.5 kg.
Jockey :-       A Imran Khan                                     
Draw :-          7
Rating :-       108
The defending Champion who won this race in exciting circumstances last year and returns to defend his crown although he will need to show significant improvement on his current form. Overall a winner of 7 of his 26 starts, he was a dual Group Race winner last season but struggled to find his form in  Pune. He raced just twice during the recent season finishing a decent 3rd in the Pune City Gold Cup won by Alaindair and then 5th in the RWITC Gold Cup behind Aster Rose and Phoenix Tiger. A case can be made that he is better suited to the Mahalaxmi Track and he has been working very well of late but is looks hard to see him reverse the form with his 2 Pune conquerors. A. Imran Khan takes the ride and he looks a contender for the places
NEW ENGLAND (Arazan x Autumnal)                  
Trainer :-      Imtiaz Sait                                           
Weight :-    52.5 kg.
Jockey :-       Prashant Dhebe                                               
Draw :-    1
Rating :-       86
The 2nd runner from Imtiaz Sait’s yard and an extremely interesting one as he is rated well below this lot on Official Ratings but has clearly looked to be a Group Horse in the making. Starting in Class IV in March last season, he has rattled off a string of 4 consecutive victories, looking better and better with every win and last time out, ran a cracker in defeat to Mygrator, considering that he reared up and lost a distance at the start but still ended up a close 3rd just beaten a length and conceding 5 kilos. That last run is best ignored so he looks very progressive and is worth a crack at a race of this nature which will underline just how good he is. He clearly looks up against it here but could be considered the Joker in the pack
A thrilling race in the offing with Phoenix Tiger taken to get the better of Aster Rose and Temerity a very live danger who could spring a surprise at a good price
(Disclaimer : Views are entirely that of the correspondent only and RWITC takes no responsibility for the same)

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