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McDOWELL SIGNATURE PREMIER INDIAN DERBY, Gr.1
MUMBAI
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Wednesday 30 Jan 2013
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

With 17 runners having accepted, the 71st renewal of the Indian Derby is all set to have a big field. The same number went to the post when Red Rufus (1966), Psychic Flame (2004) and Southern Regent (2005) won. There were bigger fields when the filly Jeanne d'Arc defeated 21 rivals in 1948; Balam (1949), Loyal Manzar (1962) and  Hotstepper (2008) overcame 18 adversaries while Starsky (2002) had to get better of  17 challengers. There is a racing saying, "Bigger the field, the greater the certainty".  Jeanne d'Arc, Balam and Red Rufus proved that adage because they won as the favourites. On the other hand, public fancies bit the dust on the other five occasions mentioned.

15 Classics have been run since the start of the winter season in November and only three favourites, Vijays Pride at Hyderabad, Wind Stream and Chase The Sun - have justified their place in the betting. Vijays Pride is also the only one to win two Classics during this period though Chase The Sun may have a second one coming her way if Silverina is eventually disqualified. The trend, therefore, is for a new name to come to the fore and is against the favourites. Snowscape has won the Derby at Calcutta and all the summer/monsoon Derby winners, Borsalino, Commander and Wind Stream will also be running as also the Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1 victor Machiavellianism, the Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Maximus and Super Storm, the winner of the Mysore 2000 Guineas, Gr.3. That makes it a very competitive race and no runner stands out. 

Mr. R.K. Wadhwan has two runners, each with a different trainer. The 'got-abroad' filly Winds of Fortune (Kheleyef - Finnine) trained by Cooji Katrak has paid a final entry fee of Rs. 9 lakhs while Irfan Ghatala has skipped his 'home' Derby and brought Wind Stream to Mumbai. Winds of Fortune has raced four times in the last forty days and won thrice. She has wins over a mile, 1800 m. and 2000 m. but no black-type. She was beaten by Colossus (who has opted out at the last stage) when they met over 2400 m. though she comes out better at the weights they carried. Her strenuous recent racing schedule could take its toll, especially as she will be facing far tougher opposition and her pedigree falls in the "may stay" category rather than "will stay".

Wind Stream (Steinbeck - Artwork) has a most consistent record and is bred to stay. His last four starts have been in black-type races and he has won three of them including Poonawalla Mysore Derby, Gr.1 and Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. His dam is a three-parts sister to Psychic Flame who won 2004 McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1. If the plan to side-step the Kimmane Bangalore Derby, Gr.1 was taken early, it would perhaps have been preferable for him to have come to Mumbai earlier and run in the Ruia. He has had a mock race but the gap between his Bangalore 2000 Guineas and the Derby is a long one. Some astute work watchers report that he looks well within himself. He has also shown, at least once, that he needs time to get into top gear. The long Mahalakshmi straight will hence be to his advantage. Martin Dwyer, who won the race last year, will be partnering him.

The gold and brown colours are back in the limelite with a bang and Dr. Ramaswamy is looking for his seventh winner of the race in his colours through Shivalik Hero. Shivalik Hero has run second in his last three starts. Machiavellianism proved too good for him the Indian 2000 while he was unable to pass Commander in the Pune Derby and An Acquired Taste in the Ruia. Being by Rebuttal there is no certainty that he can find that extra gear over the Derby distance. Another Rebuttal is Super Storm who was beaten by Red Baron in the Kimmane Bangalore Derby, Gr.1. In that race, when the push came to a shove, Super Storm cut an erratic course. He has had to travel and runs another Gr.1 race over 2,400 m. within a week. That is very demanding and lessens his chances.

The effortless victory of Tintinnabulation in the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda Derby, Gr.1 has boosted the hopes of  Snowscape (China Visit - Snow Tiger) tremendously for, in the Eveready Calcutta Derby, Gr.1, Mr. D. Khaitan's horse had gone past Tintinnabulation as if the latter was marking time. That, too, without Christopher Alford having to use his stick. Borsalino was third in that race, five lengths behind the winner and a line through trainer Padmanabhan's horse gives an edge to Snowscape over Wind Stream. There are too many brilliant, short-running horses in Snowscape's family so ideally a confirmation that he is an exception to the rule is necessary. Vijay Singh has ventured often enough to Mumbai in the past with Mr. Khaitan's horses and only Romantic Liaison has been successful. However, if Snowscape, who like Winds of Fortune is a final entry, reproduces his Calcutta run, he will be a hard nut to crack.

After winning the Vijay Textiles Deccan Derby, Gr.1, Borsalino has now lost thrice in a row at a mile (too short for him), 2000 m. (to Wind Stream) and 2400 (to Snowscape). All the three runs were on a sound surface whereas his two Derby wins were gained on a rain affected track; which leads to the belief  that the gelding needs some give in the ground. If that is so, it is something which his very capable handler can do little about. Otherwise, you can be certain that by now Padmanabhan  has worked out his tactics, the pace to set and the point to make his move. In a big field, Borsalino's front running will be advantageous because he will avoid all the traffic snares though the long Mahalakshmi straight will demand that he maintains his gallop for a longer distance. Borsalino's dam Running Flame went into the 1999 McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1 as the favourite carrying the same colours. She finished a tame third to Saddle Up and Supervite. Borsalino will thus be fighting for family honour.

There is only one other contestant who has a realistic chance of winning. An Acquired Taste put back some indifferent performances to win the Ruia. The real skill of a trainer comes into play when he takes his horse into a Derby. Altamash Ahmed is relatively inexperienced and the Sunday's race will provide him with the biggest test of his career, especially as the horse was said to be stiff after his last run.

Machiavellianism wasn't too far behind An Acquired Taste in the Ruia when his run lacked the sparkle that he had exhibited earlier. In three starts over 2000 m. Deshmukh's ward has failed to win so it doesn't appear logical that he could come up trumps over a mile and a half. While Shivalik Hero has run two decent races since the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1, his conqueror Commander has run off the board in those very races.  Caesar's Star, likely to be ridden by S.A. De Souza, and Angel Crown have won over 2400 m. in much shallower waters. Angel Crown ran a forward race in Tintinnabulations's race at Malakpet last Sunday but was a well beaten third. He may be utilised to set the pace for An Acquired Taste and to harry Borsalino. New World, a close fourth in the Ruia, finished ahead of Hemisphere, Montezuma and Commander in that race after being detached from the field till almost the halfway point. A son of Razeen, he is bred to stay. Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Maximus is Mallesh Narredu's second string while Honest Pleasure won the first race of his career only towards the end of last year.

18 fillies have won the Indian Derby with three of them winning in the last three years. 13 of the Derby winning fillies had won their previous start and the five that hadn't, had won a black-type race earlier. So, if Song Dynasty, a late finishing second in the Indian Oaks, Gr.1 recently, wins the Blue Riband, she will be writing a new chapter. 

Usha Stud, seeking to extend its Indian Derby tally to a Baker's Dozen, has half a dozen runners in the fray including the two final entries. Hazara Stud, looking for its first and having a great season, is represented by four. Four trainers have saddled a Derby winner earlier and of them Pesi Shroff fields two (Montezuma and Hemisphere) while Bezan Chenoy (Commander), Cooji Katrak (Winds of Fortune) and Padmanabhan (Borsalino) have a runner apiece. Of the currently active Indian jockeys,only P. Kamlesh has ridden a Derby winner and he may not have a ride this year. Richard Hughes, Colm O'Donoghue, S.A. De Souza, David Allan and Martin Dwyer are foreign jockeys who have ridden a Derby winner in recent years and some of them are certain to be in action on Sunday. Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy, Mr. D. Khaitan, Mr. Vijay Shirke and Mr. R.K. Wadhawan have seen their colours first past the post; anyone else winning this year will savour the Derby euphoria for the first time.

As in any sporting event, form, pedigree and similar other factors are a valid basis for analysis. The result, however, depends on how you turn up on the day and how kindly the Lady Luck smiles on you.

PAST THE POST

Pyare Miya (Punjab - Neemah), who won the Indian Derby, Gr.1 in 1975, is surely the most unique of the 70 winners of the race. He had not won a race before nor did he win one again. The Indian Derby was his only winning run in 17 career starts. He was bought by Mr. D.P.C. Kapadia for Rs. 40,000 at the 1973 R.W.I.T.C., Ltd. Annual Auction Sale and entrusted to Hayat Mohd. for training. His dam was covered by Punjab at the Broadacres Stud and on being purchased by H.H. the Maharaja of Kolhapur moved to Kolhapur Stud where Pyare Miya, a big, powerful, dark bay colt was born on 24 January 1971.

He started racing at Mumbai in the ownership of M/s. D.P.C.Kapadia and Hayat Mohd. and made his debut under P. Khade a week before Topmost's Indian Derby. Mrs. D.P.C. Kapadia and Mr. Harrish Mehra joined the ownership for his fourth and and last start of that Mumbai season and as an even money favourite he failed to hit the board for the first time. Taken to Pune, he had his number put up in three of his five starts. Back in Mumbai, he had four starts, all with Khade up. He used to leave the stalls tardily despite being fitted with blinkers.

Ernie Johnson rode Pyare Miya for the first time in the Derby and once again he was slowly away. Johnson was patient with him and improved his position gradually. Opposite the First Enclosure, Johnson pressed the button and Pyare Miya unleashed a tremendous run to win rather easily by a shade over two legnths from Carbon Star and the favourite Sun Prince. Johnson was again astride Pyare Miya in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at Calcutta where he was never sighted in Midnight Cowboy's race. Pyare Miya did not race for almost two years after that. He started just twice in 1977 and finished  dead last on the final start. That Derby was the only Classic won by Mr. D.P.C. Kapadia or trainer Hayat Mohd. A former jockey, Hayat Mohd. used to ride for Rashid Byramji in the trainer's very early years. Later, he was assistant to trainer Dara Pandole. Pandole had bought a Gwalior cast-off who never used to enter the stalls. Hayat Mohd. and jockey Jalal Khan mended the mulish gelding's ways. That horse was the grey Thunder Storm who won the 1970 Indian Derby, Gr.1 by over six lengths. Pyare Miya's Derby was also the last Classic won by a Kolhapur-bred horse.