Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
The ten year-old association of Poonawallas with the Mysore Derby, Gr.1 ended in 2012 during which time a horse bred at their farm - Field Marshall - won the event once. Last year, there was no sponsor for the race but a Poonawalla-bred - Southern Empire - enabled Dr.M.A.M. Ramaswamy to break his fourteen year-old drought in the race. Dr. Ramaswamy with 14 winners and Poonawalla Farms with 9 top their respective respective categories. This year, the Mysore Derby is again without a sponsor but while Dr. Ramaswamy has a runner, Poonawalla Farms have none.
The interest in this year's renewal centres around the clash between Dr. Vijay Mallya's Spreadeagle and Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's Bold Majesty. The two geldings, one a chestnut and the other a rich bay, have met four times previously and the score stands level at 2-2. This makes the Sunday's race the ultimate play-off between the two as far as their first racing year is concerned.
Their first two meetings took place in Bangalore. Early in February, Spreadeagle was third and Bold Majesty fifth in a maiden contest won easily by Emperor Cruise when the Bold Majesty finished three and a half lengths behind his rival. The next time they clashed was in June when Bold Majesty won his first race with Spreadeagle fourth almost four lengths behind.
They shifted the venue of their combat to Malakpet for the next two encounters with Bold Majesty winning the Deccan Bookmakers' Hyderabad Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3 (where Spreadeagle was was sixth three and a quarter length plus a neck away) and Spreadeagle drawing level in the Vijay Textiles Deccan Derby, Gr.1 (Bold Majesty third, two and a half lengths plus a neck adrift). Even Stevens, you would have to say but having a Gr.1 Derby to his credit, the bragging rights rest with the son of Burden of Proof.
It is necessary to analyse the two Hyderabad races carefully. In the Colts' Championship, Spreadeagle was handy at the bend but found no response even when whipped and plodded on as Bold Majesty, dead last at the turn, unleashed a tremendous run on the outside which carried him past the entire field. A month later in the Derby, Spreadeagle and Bold Majesty were similarly placed at the bend. This time, Spreadeagle responded to Trevor's whalebone and as the front runners back-pedalled, he found himself with a break at the top of the straight. Trevor did not spare him and only when victory was certain did he stand up in the saddle in elation. Meanwhile, Bold Majesty tried to come through in the centre but never had the space to reproduce his Colts' Championship run. He still managed after getting to the rails - to save the place money of his backers.
It is going to be a small field at Mysore where Bold Majesty does not have the services of a pacemaker and whoever rides him will have be extra careful to ensure that he has room to gallop. Spreadeagle certainly put in an improved performance in the Deccan Derby and he will need show a similar upward curve to hold Bold Majesty. The key to this race will be their respective positions at the bend. Spreadeagle will need to have a break over the field coming into the straight to win. Bold Majesty must not be asked to cover too much ground in the final furlong and must get a clear run. Jockeys will have to get their tactics spot on.
In the last ten years, there have been three 2000 Guineas-Mysore Derby doubles but there won't be one this year because War Command took his chance at Pune. War Command faded out after holding a good position till the bend at Pune and that somewhat devalues the Mysore 2000 Guineas form where Zucchero came with a late run to beat the much vaunted Fink for the runner-up berth. Zucchero is by Intikhab, the sire of Tintinnabulation. His dam is closely related to Fly North, a black-type winner and more importantly the dam of Kentucky Oaks, Gr.1 winner Farda Amiga. This is the immediate family of St. Jovite (Irish Derby, Gr.1) and the tap-root - CARPET SLIPPER - an elite mare.
Zucchero's trainer is comparatively inexperienced. Also, a good run in a big race needs to be franked by another performance. Last year we had Beauty Is Truth who finished a close second to Amelia in Bangalore Fillies'Championship Stakes, Gr.1 beating previous or subsequent black-type winners like Mariinsky, Striking, Apparition, Starry Eyes and Isn't She Special. Beauty Is Truth is yet win her first race though she has had a dozen starts. Zucchero has the pedigree to be competitive against the fancied pair. His preparation needs to be of a similar calibre.
The Artist (Steinbeck - Artwork), a full-brother to Wind Stream, is unbeaten in two starts. The Artist will race in his breeder Ms. Ameeta Mehra's colours and in time could develop into a useful sort. This contest comes rather too early in his career though the limited aim may be to gauge his potential for the winter and at the same time recover a bit of the final entry fee.
Fatal Attraction was putting in good work at the end of Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 where she ran closer to the stand rail than the running rail. Being sired by the Epsom Derby winner Authorized means that she will like the step up in distance. However, The Myth who won that race didn't distinguish herself in Pune, though she has the excuse having bled. In that very race, Obellina Princess who won over 2000 m. during the Bangalore Summer - finished a dead last after being in the van for a long while. To win a Derby after such a dismal run would be incredulous.
Spreadeagle, The Artist and Fatal Attraction have paid a final entry fee of Rs. 16.5 lakhs (including Service Tax). That is not a trifling amount. Unless they place in the first two, the owners will be out of pocket. Of the three Gr.1 monsoon Derbys, Sunday race has the smallest field. However, the presence of two Classic winners means that the average rating of the field is the highest (71.8). The average rating in Deccan Derby was 68.3 and it was 67.9 for the race in Pune.
PAST THE POST
With The Myth having bled during the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 last Sunday, she comes under a veterinary ban that prevents her from running at Mysore. She had won the Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 after coming down from Pune. She then returned to Pune for the Derby on her home turf and even if she had not bled, her returning to Mysore for Sunday's race was highly improbable.
Improbable certainly but not totally beyond the realms of possibility. Dr. Ramaswamy's horses, when they are in a rich vein of form, have defied logistic contraints. Republican, who won the race in 1975, had been beaten a head by Makalu in the Deccan Derby, Gr.1 at Hyderabad just three days previously. The following year, Cupid won the Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 on 10 January. Five days later he picked up the South India Derby, Gr.1 at Chennai!