Many sighs were heard from the galleries of Pune Race Course Sunday afternoon as horse Jefferson, ridden by Dashrath Singh, caused an upset in the S A Poonawalla race by defeating favourite horse Continental by 9 milliseconds. Horse Jefferson is owned by Nagpals. The 1,600 metre race was contested by six popular horses and jockeys.
Starting quickly, Continental, who was ridden by Suraj Narredu, took an early lead. His lead was intact until he reached the 1,400 metre mark. However, Jefferson dashed in from the far left in the final 100 metres and finished first. The horse completed the race in 1:39:70 seconds. Neeraj Rawal’s horse Bold Appeal finished third; before horses Airco, Jigsaw and Fearless Nadia respectively. The owners were presented the trophy of Grade 3 race and later the cash prize of Rs 12 lakh by Cyrus Poonawalla. The breeder, trainer and jockey were given a trophy worth Rs 15,000 each.
Earlier in the day, the 1,000 metre Villoo C Poonawalla Gold Trophy; named after the late wife of Cyrus Poonawalla, saw the dramatic victory of horse Daytona. Ridden again by Dashrath Singh, the horse started slowly, before catching speed and completing the race in 59.60 seconds. The owners were given the gold trophy and a cheque worth Rs 3,65,228 rupees. The race was contested by 11 horses. Horse Forever Yours, ridden by D K Ashish and horse Godstouch, ridden by Yash Narredu, finished second and third. The day began with The Neona Plate, the 143rd race of the season. It was won by horse Jewel, ridden by Dashrath Singh. Eloise Plate, the division two race was won by horse Awesome Knight, ridden by C S Jodha.
The Secret Memory Plate, which was the longest race of the day (2,400 metres), was won by horse Savage Garden, ridden by Dashrath Singh in 2:33:57. The Rao Saheb Kedari Gold Trophy, a class III race, was won by horse Fibonacchi Sequence, ridden by Malcolm Kharadi. The S A Poonawalla race was named after Soli Poonawalla, the founder of Poona Stud Farm, which has the world record of winning 342 classics including nine Indian derbies and 14 Indian Turf Invitation Cups. Soli was also father of Cyrus and Zavaray Poonawalla. The race was instituted in his honor by RWITC after his demise in 1982. The race was upgraded to Grade 3 status in 1986 and to Grade 2 in 1990. The popularity of this race then grew by leaps and bounds, necessitating an upgrade to the Multi-Million status in 2009.
The race drew huge crowds due to various activities and glamour events. Awards were given to the best dressed lady and gentleman. There was also a special contest titled ‘Free Contest of Skill’, where participants were supposed to nominate the first four placings at S A Poonawalla race. The winners were given prizes like car, television set and laptop.