• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 19 Jul 2013
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

It will surprise some people - if not many - that the St. Leger, run at Doncaster, is the oldest Classic in the world; a few years older than the Oaks and the Derby. It is a long distance race and affords an opportunity for stayers to exhibit their prowess. Classics in India are patterned on the English Classics. The Indian St. Leger was run in its early years as the Governor-General's Cup. It was only after India became a republic that the name was changed to the Indian St. Leger.

From the full-house of the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, we are now down to a field which can be counted on fingers of two hands. It may lack in numbers but that doesn't make it any easier to discern the winner. All the runners will be going over 2800 m. for the first time and thus venturing into a new territory. A horse may have won over 2400 m. That does not necessarily mean that he will have the stamina for another 400 m. Southern Regent won the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at Chennai in a time that has yet not been bettered in India. Yet, he was beaten in the Indian St. Leger, Gr.1 and the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2  by horses who had never won a Classic till then. The filly Warsaw Pact and Andreyan, both sired by Razeen like Southern Regent himself, had his measure.

The Bangalore St. Leger was run earlier during the winter season. In 1992, it was moved to the summer season and has now been run towards the end of July 21 times. In this period, the Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2 has been the most popular lead-up race and 16 of the winners of the longer race had sharpened themselves by warming up over 2200 m. There have been seven Maharaja's Cup-Bangalore St. Leger doubles and they have been registered by Astronomic (1993), Mystic Memory (1995),Saddle Up (1998), Classical Act (2003), Southern Empire (2007), Arabian Prince (2010) and Xisca (2011).

Ocean and Beyond, this year's winner of the Maharaja's Cup, is an older horse so he will not be running in the Bangalore St. Leger. It was only by a short-head that the Wadhawan horse prevailed in the Maharaja's Cup and in his absence the runner-up Hemisphere is bound to attract his legion of supporters. Hemisphere will now run as Master Shifu. His jockey Zervan and trainer Shroff were spoken to by the Stewards after the race and the trainer's explanation that he had doubts about the gelding's stamina was one of the points noted. In the preview of the Indian Derby - where Master Shifu was third to Super Storm and Wind Stream - some misgivings were expressed the connections on the same score. These obviously stem from the fact that  his dam Stratospheric never won beyond 1400 m. and  of her six winning foals only one registered a victory beyond a mile and that too in the lowest class. Stratospheric's sire Statoblest (by the sprinter Ahonoora) was a pure sprinter. However, Ahonoora has sired an Epsom Derby winner in Dr. Devious and figures as the damsire of another winner of the same race in New Approach. (Incidentally, compare the pedigree of Statoblest with that of Manitou and note a very interesting similarity). Take out Statoblest and there are no stamina negatives in Master Shifu's pedigree. A sequence of Be My Guest-Riverman-Green Dancer-Le Fabuleux as successive damsires coupled with a Classic tap-root in Pearl Maiden leaves nothing to be desired. This is not say that his  pedigree is tailor-made for a St. Leger. However, the horse has run respectably in the Indian Derby, the Invitation Cup and the Maharaja's Cup. What is certain though is that if he is ridden with the belief that his stamina is suspect, it won't brighten his chances.

Neither Borsalino nor Wind Stream finished in the frame in the Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2. Both were having their first runs of the season and in retrospect it is clear that both had their eyes on this race. Borsalino, as is his wont, went to the front. He matched strides with Hemisphere in the straight for a while before retiring. Wind Stream on the other hand stuck to the tail-end for he usually comes from behind. Irfan Ghatala's ward would have been expected to put in good work towards the end of the race when a wayward-running Drop of Honey denied him an unhampered run. Both Borsalino and Wind Stream will come on for that run. Neither has won in 2013 and that is the biggest concern.

Many years ago, Brutus spoke of the necessity of taking the tide at flood. Trainer Altamash Ahmed is certainly cresting the wave for two of his horses - Alaindair and An Acquired Taste - have not tasted a defeat in four starts this Bangalore season. An Acquired Taste won the Chief Justice's Cup,Gr.3 quite easily and amongst those that he beat in that race were Ocean and Beyond, Master Shifu and Ambrosia who ran prominently in the Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2. Seven years ago, Mystical had won the Chief Justice's Cup, Gr.3 as a prelude to the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2. The St. Leger comes a trifle too soon after the Maharaja's Cup; The gap between the Chief Justice's Cup and the St. Leger is a month and that is a shade longer than ideal. Altamash Ahmed has kept his chestnut is fine trim as evidenced from the track reports. An Acquired Taste has not won a Classic so far. Seven horses - Nectar Queen, Round Off, Salute Her, Allied Forces, Andreyan, Conceptual and Arabian Knight - won their first one by annexing the Bangalore St. Leger.

The favourite for the Chief Justice's Cup, Gr.3 won by An Acquired Taste was the Invitation Cup winner Tintinnabulation. After being left at the start, L.V.R. Deshmukh's runner eventually finished dead last. A satisfactory mock race was stipulated by the Stewards for Tintinnabulation and the Hazara-bred bay gelding passed his test easily disposing of Super Storm. The last unplaced run of the winner of the Golconda Derby-Invitation Cup double deserves to be overlooked and his fans will be buoyed by the fact that in the last 21 runnings, four Bangalore St. Leger winners - Maximillion, Amazing Bay, Bonzer and Arabian Knight - had failed to have their number put up in their previous run.  A shock winner of the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby, Gr.1, Super Storm fell somewhat from grace when he finished off-the board in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at Calcutta. He has not raced since then. In 2005, Andreyan, fourth in the Invitation Cup at Chennai, won the Bangalore St. Leger on his re-appearance. 

The maiden Song Dynasty was second in the Indian Oaks, Gr.1. The filly has had a run during the current Bangalore season and could line up. Fire Engine, however, is unlikely to do so for he hasn't raced since last October and has perhaps been left-in by oversight. Racing fans know all about the form and the inter-se standings of the eight runners. The unknown factor is the enchanting, untravelled distance of 2800 m.

Distance Aptitude and Dosage Index

Stamina of a horse is determined to a large extent by a horse's pedigree and a tool often employed to asses a horse's  staying potential is the Dosage Index (DI). It was first developed in its present form - there have been several variations of it earlier - by the Italian Franco Varola and then 'perfected' by Dr. Steven Roman. It is indeed a useful adjunct to a racing fan's repertoire but it is not a touchstone or the abracadabra to isolate winners of a particular race. If it were, the result of Sunday's race will be:-

An Acquired Taste ( DI 1.00) DP 0-1-6-1-0

Song Dynasty        (DI 1.67) DP 5-1-3-13-1-0

Tintinnabulation     (DI 1.77)  DP 3-2-13-0-0

Wind Stream         (DI 3.00) DP 12-2-9-1-0

Hemisphere           (DI 3.00) DP 4-6-10-0-0

Super Storm          (DI 3.67) DP 7-1-6-0-0

Borsalino              (DI 3.80) DP  6-1-5-0-0

Racing is not mathematics and solving Siacci Equations won't find you a winner. That is because while 2+2 is always 4 in arithmetic, the assumption that a horse will always be true to his DI is fallacious. Moonlight Romance and Attila have exactly the same dosage index but while the former was a redoutable stayer, the latter was a flyer. Take the case of Graustark and his younger full-brother His Majesty. Since both have exactly the same pedigree, they have exactly the same DI. Graustark is classified as a Classic/Stout chef de race while His Majesty is labelled as only Classic. The simple fact is that the two full-brothers did not inherit exactly the same genes - as a formula would imply but geneticists will contest - and so their behaviour and influence has been different.

This is not meant to discuss DI in detail nor is it an attempt to play down its utility. However, it may well be in the interest to Indian racing fans to consider one aspect. Take the case of Wind Stream. He has a DI of 3.00 and in his profile his maternal grandsire Razeen is not taken as a chef-de-race. Razeen's progeny has won 113 Classics in India. He is also the damsire of winners of 47 Classics. His influence on shaping the Indian-bred is enormous and therefore, purely in Indian context, he needs to be considered as a chef-de-race as do several other stallions like Placerville, Riyahi, Malvado, Common Land, Grey Gaston and Everyday II to mention just a few. If Razeen is classified as a "Classic" - and this is open to debate - chef-de-race, then the DI of Wind Stream comes down to 2.16 (make allowances for poor arithmetic). Till such time as Indian stallions are classified, using the existing formula for Indian-bred horses with Indian tail-female lines is not quite logical.

All in all, this is an intriguing contest with several imponderables. A race to keep away from the bookies' ring and Tote counters. Just to watch and be fascinated.


And, finally, some previous winners of the race, interesting from a pedigree point of view:-

NECTAR QUEEN, the very first winner of the race was sired by an Indian Derby winner - Prince Pradeep - while her dam - Rocklie - was also a winner of the same race. A best-to-best mating does not always prove successful. The Bangalore St. Leger was the only Classic which Nectar Queen won.

SCINTILLATION, the 1983 winner, was a non-Thoroughbred at that time. The family was subsequently promoted to Thoroughbred status and several descendants of Uma[NSB] became Thoroughbreds retrospectively.

ROUND OFF (1976) and REFLECT (1978) were fully related "in-blood". Both were sired by Prince Pradeep out of the full-sisters Reward and Request. CLASSICAL ACT (2003) and SOUTHERN EMPIRE (2007) were full-brothers while ARABIAN KNIGHT (2008) and ARABIAN PRINCE (2010)  were half-brothers.