MAIDEN 2014 : It was a sure win, a déclaré Shirish Narang 

La confiance était de mise du côté de Shirish Narang

La happy end a finalement eu lieu. Endeuillée depuis mardi matin, l’écurie Serge Henry a rendu le plus bel hommage possible à son défunt entraîneur en remportant The Phoenix Maiden Cup, la priorité 2014 du recordman de victoires au Champ de Mars. Shirish Narang, l’une des chevilles ouvrières de cet éclatant succès, revient pour Turf Magazine sur cette journée inoubliable pour son établissement.

Shirish Narang, congratulations first of all for this fantastic win. There could not be a better way to bid farewell to Kiki…
 Yes, it’s true. He was there watching us. I could feel his presence with us the whole day. When we went for the draw on Wednesday, I was praying and I told Kiki that he just had to pick the draw he wanted and we would win the race for him. I was still very confident despite the 10th row. Our horse was very well and I knew he would overcome the draw and win. The hard work and the training plan were there. Kiki was advising us on the horse’s training till the last minute. We surely missed him on Sunday but he was always there, watching us. A big credit goes to Rye because he did not have the best of draws. The horse jumped a bit slow but Rye did the job and he had a dream race behind Vettel. I think he’s a natural horse who always gives his best. He followed the pace and for me he had already won the race after the first 100m because he had done the hardest part already. We knew what he was doing in training, we knew what he was capable of and it was a sure win.

Could you take us through Man To Man’s preparation for this big race?
Man To Man arrived in Mauritius in April and he had a first run over 1500m which was very impressive as he finished within 1.31.00s I think. He then won one leg in the 4-year old championship over 1850m. We were then convinced that he was a magnificent horse with lots of ability. We then raised him on 2200m for the Supertote Golden Trophy and this is where he was really tested for his class. Vinay Naiko rode him perfectly and he beat Vettel on that day. He proved then that he was one of the main contenders for the Maiden Cup. He’s just turned five and he’s got a bright future ahead of him. After the Supertote Golden Trophy race, we sent him away for a rest for one week and brought him back to Port-Louis. We did not do much with him afterwards because he already had 3 races under his belt and he was a fit horse. On Sunday, he was 100% fit.

It would seem that Man To Man is already the people’s champ, judging by the warm reception he got after the race...
Yes, I think he is. If you look at him, he really enjoys the crowd, he looks at everyone. He knows what he’s done and I’m really thankful to the crowd who cheered us so much, specially for Mr Kiki Henry. It would have been a blessing if he would have been with us but like I said, he’s in our heart and he’ll be there always.

Since the start of his career in Mauritius, Man To Man has risen to each challenge set for him. From the looks of it, the Serge Henry stable has got its hand on a special horse…   
Man To Man has surely proved he’s got the ability and class. I’m pretty confident this horse can be an all-rounder, he’s got this fighting spirit in the race, he is very calm at the stable and in the paddock. He is even an easy ride at trackwork so I guess he’s just a natural horse who gives his best at races. I don’t really think he will be less competitive on smaller distances.

Man To Man’s next outing is now much anticipated. Has it already been scheduled at the stable?
We have not thought of anything right now. We’ll have to see how Man To Man takes that race. I don’t know if he will be in contention for the Gold Cup. We’ll have to sit down with Nathalie and talk about what else he’s going to do this year but he’s an amazing horse. He deserves a good rest and we’ll then think about it.

Winning the Maiden Cup must surely be the highlight of your career so far. Could you please share with us your expectations for the rest of the season?
 It’s been a very good season for me. I was also in the team of Polar Bound when he won the Barbé Cup, so I guess it’s been a very good year for me. I really wish it continues. When I joined the Serge Henry stable two months ago, I did mention that we would consider it a good achievement if we had 15 wins by the end of the season. For now, let’s just keep our focus and concentrate on this particular target.