Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
The Calcutta Monsoon Derby was first run in 1994 making it the 'youngest' of the dozen Derbys that are run in India. Some fairly useful horses have got their names inscribed on the Roll of Honoour of the race but none of them has had an impact at All-India level. The winner of this year's race will pocket nearly Rs. 4 million, which is a tidy sum. Yet, the race has attracted just one outstation challenger.
There are seven runners in the fray, four of them are trained by Bharath Singh and there are two final entries. The favourite, in all probability, will be the unbeaten Slade Valley (Rebuttal - Illusive Lady), one the Bharath Singh quartet. He scored on his debut over 1200 m. in February, notched another win over the same distance in June and then won the Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes over 1400 m. in September on his last start where Malpensa and Snowscape followed him without posing a threat. Unbeaten horses they say, should be followed. In the case of Slade Valley, a more cautious approach is indicated for he has not yet ventured beyond 1400 m. and his pedigree suggests that he may not have the stamina for 2000 m.
Slade Valley is not in the Indian Stud Book because his dam is not a Thoroughbred. There was a time when there were about a hundred non-Thoroughbred mares in India but their numbers have dwindled rapidly and Illusive Lady (by Young Senor) was the only active non-Thoroughbred mare in 2009. She is a winner five races, all at short distances. Her dam Baronette (by French Suitor) also won five races while the next dam Runnette won as many as nine at Delhi. Runnette's parentage is put down as by Unknown out of Unknown and that is why Slade Valley is not a Thoroughbred. The reason why Slade Valley's stamina may be suspect is that not only were Illusive Lady, Baronette and Runnette short-running, French Suitor, Young Senor and Rebuttal are not prepotent for stamina. So Slade Valley will be relying on class to carry him through. There are two other interesting points about Slade Valley. It is said that his third dam Runnette was actually a Thoroughbred - from the Mumtaz Mahal family no less, but that documentary and procedural errors on part of the stud farm meant that Runnette had to be registered as a non-Thoroughbred. One of the breeders of Slade Valley is Warren Singh; names of not many jockeys/trainers are found in the list of breeders. Suraj Narredu will be astride Slade Valley.
Trainer Bharath Singh himself may be apprehensive about Slade Valley's staying ability. Had he been certain, he would surely have dissuaded the owners from coughing up a hefty late entry fee for Malpensa (Hurricane State - Northern Frontier). Before being beaten by Slade Valley in the Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes, Malpensa had won two races over 1400 m. and 1800 m., giving weight and comfortably disposing off Alderson (Mr. Mellon - Kristen) over the longer distance. Sea of Kisses, who had finished between Malpensa and Alderson, later confirmed that form by beating Alderson. Alderson, who is trained by Vikash Jaiswal, has a win over 2000 m. in lower class but the form shows that he will find it hard to turn the tables on Malpensa. Malpensa, possibly named after Milan's airport, does not have a pedigree which which guarantees Classic stamina. His sire won both his races at 2 over 1200 m. and stood abroad for five years without much success. His unraced grandam Goulaine had four ordinary winners in India none of which won beyond a mile. His pedigree is interesting, though. His sire is inbred to Raise a Native while his dam is inbred to Northern Dancer. Prakash will be astride Malpensa.
A Calcutta Classic without a runner in Khaitan silks is unthinkable and it will be Snowscape (China Visit - Snow Tiger) who will carry the famous gold and red colours on Saturday. Snowscape went down by a short-neck to Silverina on his debut before reeling off a hat-trick, the centre-piece of which was the Calcutta Million, Gr.2 over 1600 m. In two of those races, including the Million, he beat Silverina. The Vijay Singh-trained grey was third in the Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes behind Slade Valley and Malpensa. He is from a speedy branch of the Amber Forest family and will have his limitations beyond a mile.
On the day Slade Valley won the Colts' Trial Stakes, Bharath Singh also won the Fillies' Trial Stakes with Silverina (China Visit - Silver Print). Silverina had started off her career with two wins over 1200 m. and then had two seconds to Snowscape. She summered in Bangalore where she was given two easy outings. The Calcutta Fillies' Trial Stakes was Silverina's first run of the current term and she won easily beating Destiny. Her dam Silver Print won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Gr.3 over 2800 m. China Visit's progeny take their distance aptitude from their dam and so Silverina ought to get 2000 m. under P.S. Chouhan. Bharath Singh's other runner Impressive Move (Mr. Mellon - Coco Beach) won two races in the winter and has finished last but one in his two starts during the current season. He may well be on a pace-making mission here.
Both trainer Pesi Shroff and one of his principal patrons, Dr.Vijay Mallya, have had a very quiet three months or so. The combination fields Angel Child (Razeen - Veena's Pet) after having paid the late entry fee. Angel Child's last start was in the DBA Hyderabad Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.3 where she finished three lengths behind Vijays Pride. That's a formidable form line and as Angel Child is certain to excel over the trip (she is a full-sister to Romantic Liaison and a three-parts sister to Indictment) she would have been put down as a cinch had the stable been firing. Her trackwork in Calcutta in company of Destiny, a tame second to Silverina, has not been particularly eye-catching.
All in all, it is a very open race. The colts Slade Valley and Snowscape have stamina doubts; the fillies Silverina and Angel Child are bred to stay but yet to show that they have the requisite class. And, Malpensa could be short, ever so slightly, on both the attributes. A good race to watch and see how it unfolds; not one to risk your money.
PAST THE POST
Finally, it may of interest to viewers to know the previous winners of the race:-
1993-94 Too Hot To Touch
1994-95 Stoney Valley
1995-96 Great Tribute
1996-97 Desert Shot
1997-98 Star Precision
2001-02 Smart Ruler
2006-07 Steal the Glory
2009-10 Alice Springs