Moonlight Romance romps home

Richard Hughes-guided filly outclasses the field to win the Kingfisher Derby

Moonlight Romance romps home

Richard Hughes (left) guides Moonlight Romance to  victory in the Kingfisher  Derby in Bangalore on Sunday. DH Photos

After winning four Classics in a row on Jacqueline, Hughes appears to have started another wonderful parnership with Moonlight Romance, given the ease which which he held off the challenge of Sun Kingdom.

All smiles after the victory, Hughes said, “It’s always nice to come to India. This win just makes it a whole lot sweeter.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back in the winter season and doing well,” added Hughes, who also had two other victories on the day.

As expected, Sun Kingdom was the heavy favourite with Moonlight Romance coming in next at 3/1. But going by how the race panned out, many will feel it should have been the other way around. CD Katrak-trained Moonlight Romance set her own pace and pretty much led from start to finish to take home the top prize of Rs 79,34,400.

The race began with an even start, after which Moonlight Romance and Moon Star jumped into the lead with the remaining eight horses bunched up a few lengths behind. Moon Star was clearly going to be the pace setter, but the surprising aspect was that Moonlight Romance kept right up with the frontrunner even as the punters seemed apprehensive of the cracking pace the filly was setting from the beginning. The master that he is, Hughes was the calmest person on the course, perfectly aware of exactly when to pull back a bit and when to accelerate.

Moonlight Romance seemed to grow from strength to strength as the race reached the 1200-metre mark. Suraj Narredu-ridden Sun Kingdom also looked nicely placed behind the front two and as the race wore on, it was becoming clear that it would be a straight fight between the two favourites.

At the straight, Moonlight Romance showed a tremendous burst of speed and flew away from Moon Star to put fair distance between herself and the rest of the pack. Sun Kingdom still hadn’t quite hit full tilt, and was a fair way behind the leader.

With about 600 metres to go, Moonlight Romance had built up her lead even further. Sun Kingdom finally kicked on with about 400 metres to go and slowly reduced the gap, but the surge turned out to be too little too late as Moonlight Romance and Hughes comfortably held on to take the plaudits.

Xisca (Chris Alford up) came in third while PS Chouhan-ridden Foreign Exchange finished fourth. Owners Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Prem Tharani, who also own second-placed Sun Kingdom, were understandably proud. “This (victory) is the best one yet. The big one. All credit to Katrak, she was very well trained.”

The bumper prize, a Chevrolet Beat car for correctly predicting the top four of the Derby, went to Harish Kumar while the second prize of a TVS bike was won by Hidayath.

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