• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Tuesday 28 Feb 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The slugfest over 3000 m. has been a good race for favourites -- 16 out of 36 for a strike rate of 44.44 % -- but not so for the Classic crop with the four year-olds having won just seven times. The best of the four year-olds, obviously, have their eye on the Invitation Cup and look at the Stayers' Cup as a last resort. It is interesting to review the careers of the seven successful four year-olds to win the Stayers' Cup -- Ardiles, Tiger Lily, Son of Silver, Moment of Glory, Bay of Angels, Arabian Knight and Swiss Don. What stands out is that all of them had exhibited noticeable ability over 2400 m. at Classic or semi-Classic level and profited by the absence of the stars of their age group in the long distance race. Three of those seven hoisted the winning standard at Bangalore.

There is only one realistic contender contender from the 2013-born crop in this year's Stayers' Cup and he meets the basic criteria laid down by his successful predecessors. Captain Morgan (Admiralofthefleet - Caprese) was well fancied in the Bangalore Derby but was trounced by Tororosso. He redeemed himself a bit by winning the South India St. Leger, a race that had only three runners. It does not completely atone for his Bangalore Derby debacle though it does show his well-being and his staying ability which was never in doubt in spite of a high DI of 3.00. It is always dangerous to overlook a runner in  Dr. Vijay Mallya's colours in a big race though Captain Morgan faces history and seasoned opponents in his quest to win the race.

There are two other four year-olds -- Adulation and Towering Heights -- entered. Both are winners of one race over 1400 m. and both have placed in a Classic at 2400 m. or more. The filly Adulation was third to Ice Glacier in Bangalore Oaks and fourth in Golconda Derby while Towering Heights was fourth in Salazaar's South India Derby and second to Captain Morgan in South India St. Leger.  Both were way off the winner and it is to be wondered if those runs constitute as "noticeable ability over 2400 m. at Classic level". Adulation has been a late finisher and as she is bred to stay may manage to place at fair odds.

Tintinnabulation (Intikhab - Tourmalet) has everything going for him except the fact that he is now eight years old. Seven year-olds Native Knight and Astapi have won the Stayers' Cup in the last four years.  A winner of the Golconda Derby, the Invitation Cup and two St. Legers in his Classic year and this very race last year at Chennai attest his class as well as staying prowess. He has had two preparatory runs this year -- as opposed to just one last year -- and one can be certain that he will run at much shorter odds than when he won at Guindy. He is bidding to not only become the oldest winner of the Stayers' Cup but also to emulate Aztec, Ardiles and Astapi who scored back-to-back wins in their time.

It seems a bit odd that Booker Jones (Kingda Ka - Giacosa) should have been nominated for this race by Mysore Race Club under whose jurisdiction he last raced on 1 October 2014. His ratings, too, are a bit confusing. He won the Byculla Club Cup over 2800 m. at Mumbai in January when he was rated 110. A month later, when he started in the Stayers' Trial Stakes at Bangalore, his rating had dropped down to 104. That race was won by Jersey Wonder with Cameron -- being kept on the ice for the C.N. Wadia Gold Cup a week later at Mumbai -- second, Booker Jones third and Tintinnabulation fourth. It was only a trial and those inter se positions could well change on Saturday. Booker Jones started his career in the colours of Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy but was subsequently purchased by his present Sri Lankan owners. A  tough customer who is two years younger to Tintinnabulation, Booker Jones has already had two starts more than the older horse. A versatile, consistent runner -- he has missed the board only thrice in his career -- he has been seen over longer distances of late and his Byculla Club Cup win belies his DI of 3.57. His damsire Placerville -- a stallion whose progeny has won six  Indian St. Legers and six Stayers' Cups -- is obviously a stamina influence not classified as a chef-de-race by Dr. Steven Roman. He is likely to adopt front running tactics and that makes him vulnerable to late finishers.

Triumphus (Burden of Proof - Arizza) is bred on the successful Burden of Proof/Tejano cross and traces to Stella Marina, the premier Indian tap-root. With half-brothers Own Opinion and Aztec winning three Stayers' Cups, the family heads the table. He has never won beyond 2000 m. but has been twice second in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup over  2800 m. at Calcutta. Last year he was three-parts of a length shy of Agostini while this year his bracket-mate Serendine -- getting 9.5 kgs. --  was a head in front at the post. He is yet to win a Graded race and game as he is, he is likely to find this lot far tougher than he has faced at Calcutta where he has done most of his racing.

Then we have Arlene (Multidimensional - Allaire) who is to this race what Mathaiyus was to the Indian Derby. Both are by Multidimensional, both are out of staying Gr.1  winners, both are inexperienced, both attempting a distance never traversed before and both trained by Pesi Shroff. Arlene made her debut as a four year-old in April after the Classics were over and was second over 1400 m. She then pulled off a hat-trick before being beaten in her last start as a red hot favourite by her stable-mate on the New Year's Day. There is potential but the performance so far is short of the expected standard for a contest of this nature. Somewhat like being thrown into the deep end after having been confined to the toddler's pool. Shroff has done it successfully on occasions in the past. Like Jeremiah winning two monsoon Derbies on the trot after previously having won just a maidens' race.

Sixteen horses hold entries to this race with some also entered for other races. This preview is being written before the Acceptances which are due only Wednesday morning. Azzurro and Cameron, it is understood, won't be running. In the last seven years, the average field rating has always been in three figures and so also that of  the winner. This year, the field's average will be well below 100.


The first ever winter Bangalore Derby was run in 1974. It was then called the Arc de Triomphe. Later that year, the first ever Test Match -- India vs. West Indies -- was staged at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. This is the first time that a Test Match at Chinnaswamy Stadium will coincide with an Invitation Cup week-end.

Two jockeys have dominated the race and the name of the rider at the top of the table will not occur to most off hand. It is Robin Corner with six wins including a hat-trick. In fact, Corner started off with a  hat-trick -- Calibre (1986), Ardiles (1987) and Ardiles(1988).  His other winners are Brave Dancer, Star Contender and Flirting Vision. . He had participated in the very first Stayers' Cup at Guindy and finished last !  Corner just pips Aslam Kader who has ridden five winners of the race. Where Aslam Kader scores is that he had four consecutive winners -- Astana, Allied Forces, Alameda and Appeaser. Earlier, he had ridden Astronomic to a victory.

Among the trainers, the father and son duo of the Byramjis head the table with nine wins, the score being 6-3 in favour of the father.

Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy and Mr. Deepak Khaitan won the race half a dozen times each. Mr. Khaitan also owned Ardiles in partnership with his mother while his father- in-law -- Mr. J.P. Goenka -- led in four winners.

Star of Windsor ran a blistering race at Guindy in 2005 to win in a time of 3.7.42, which is the fastest for this race.  Two years earlier at Malakpet, Bay of Angels had clocked 3.30.5; by far the slowest.

Own Opinion and Aztec were half-brothers like Arabian Knight and Arabian Prince later.