• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Wednesday 01 Mar 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The first Sprinters' Cup was run at Mumbai in 1979 and it was won by the grey colt Every Time (K. Umrigar) who was trained by Dara Pandole. The race has been staged consecutively for 38 years now. Favourites have won 15 of those renewals for a strike rate of 39.47 %. The honours between the Classic crop and older horses are even with 19 wins to each side. The older horses are certain to be in the lead by Saturday evening as the there is only one four year-old -- Rahul's Pet -- taking on sixteen older horses. The grey filly was a reserve to begin with.  Western India based trainers have dominated the race by winning it 20 times including nine times in the last ten years.

The Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship, run at Mahalakshmi a week after the Indian Derby, has been the perfect lead-up for the Sprinters' Cup. The race replaced the R.W.I.T.C. Committee Trophy and was first run as a Graded race in 1995. It was won that year by Mr. D. Khaitan's Exclusive Virtue who went on to win the Sprinters' Cup which was  run at Calcutta. Beginning with Exclusive Virtue, 14 of the 26 Sprinters' Cup winners have had their lead-up run in the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship. This year, Dancing Prances (Ace - Dancing Greens) won his third consecutive Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship, the first horse ever to do so. He has run in three Sprinters' Cups previously; he was beaten a head by Nefyn at Malakpet, was third in Solomon's race at Mahalakshmi and unplaced when Adam won at Guindy. He is now seven years old and Bangalore probably represents his last realistic opportunity to get his name on the Sprinters' Cup Scroll of Honour. That Guindy run and an earlier unplaced effort in the Turf Club Trophy at Pune are the only two occasions when he has missed the board in his 30-start career. His 15 wins, bar one, have all been at 1200 m. so he wins once every alternate start. What may not be generally known is that he is from the same female family as Saddle Up, both descending from the Eclipse Stakes of India winner Certainty. Danehill's son Ace, the banished sire of Dancing Prances, is now standing at Global Stud Farm in Haryana.

Finishing three-parts of a length behind Dancing Prances in the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship was Gold Bag (Sedgefield - Blue Jay). This six year-old mare has graduated to graded company only in the last year and run respectably winning the Noshir and Dolly Dhunjibhoy Sprint Million in Pune where she beat both Dancing Prances and Your Royal Majesty, albeit at a considerable weight advantage. Like the dual Sprinters' Cup flyer Oasis Star, Gold Bag is inbred to Rough Shod II. Luck of the race and best possible assistance from the saddle will be crucial to her chances.

Your Royal Majesty (Multidimensional - You Are My Miracle) has won nine races during his career. His first win as a two year-old was over 1200 m. while the other  eight  have all been over 1400 m. He finds 1200 m. a bit too sharp and a mile a trifle too far. He has accepted for the Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million on Sunday which is over his favourite trip of 1400 m. He could well have an eye on that race as well.

Renee (Glory of Dancer - Venus Arising) is by a stallion who has sired two winners of the Indian Derby out a mare who won the Indian Oaks. That is not a sprinter's pedigree but the mare has never raced beyond a mile in her 19 career starts while her five wins are all at 1400 m. So we have to accept her for what she is and not what she was bred to be. She was undoubtedly unlucky in the S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship, being denied a clear run. She lives to fight another day. In that race, it was Dancing Phoenix (Phoenix Tower - All Dancing) who called the shots till the closing stages before bowing out. He is of the same vintage as Dancing Prances who has beaten him ten times. The solitary occasion when the Phoenix finished ahead of Prances was in the Sprinters' Cup at Chennai last year. With Dancing Prances having the call over him, Dancing Phoenix has had to travel to Calcutta, Hyderabad and Mysore to find winning opportunities. Five of his nine wins have been over 1200 m. with the remaining over the minimum distance. He has raced twice before at Bangalore without earning a winning bracket.

The first five in this year's Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship face the challenge of two previous Sprinters' Cup winners in Adam (Multidimensional - Adesina) and Solomon (Rebuttal - Dhahab), both carrying Dr. Mallya's colours, though the latter has now changed hands. Since winning at Guindy, Adam has not been at his best and the connections decided to send him to Hyderabad for his preparation. He probably would not have been beaten by Happy Guy in his last start had his jockey been a bit more alert. Still, he seems some way off his best. His dam is a full-sister to the dam of dual Sprinters' Cup winner Attila, also trained by Shroff. He has the blood; now he needs to regain the form. After being cast off from Pesi Shroff's yard, Solomon made a stunning appearance at Guindy where, trained by little known Fazal Ul Rehman, he won a  scurry carrying 64.5 kgs. He followed that by running second to Mickey Mouse in the Sprinters' Trial Stakes at Bangalore. Both Solomon and Adam won the Sprinters' Cup -- as did Attila -- after having contested the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship without winning. This year, neither has participated in that race. 

From Calcutta comes Multitude (Multidimensional - Haedi) who was two lengths second to Desert God in the Calcutta Derby last year. It is strange for a horse who has excelled over 2400 m. at an exalted level to be running the Sprinters' Cup. Multitude does so on the strength of his convincing win the Calcutta Champions' Sprint Trophy, carrying 62.5 kgs., where he had Your Royal Majesty, Shivalik Storm and Gold Bag in arrears. He diminished the value of that performance by running off-the-board in Colombiana's  Indian Champion Cup when upped to 2000 m. Haedi won her only race over 2400 m. Her dam, the Sadler's Wells mare Star Express, won at about the same distance in France. The next dam, by the Arc winner Star Appeal, was a smart sprinter who placed second in the William Hill July Cup, Gr.1. Multitude has a DI of 1.20 but has never lost a race over 1200 m. Another case of taking horses for what they are rather than what they should be.

Mickey Mouse (Ace - Risada) won the Sprinters' Trial Stakes at Bangalore beating Solomon, Shivalik Star, Smile Stone, Constantine and New Prince eight days after he had triumphed in the Bangalore Race Course 154th Year Commemoration Trophy over a mile. With three wins and a second from his last four starts, the seven year-old is in rousing form. There is not much to choose between him and those that he beat last time out with each of them taking turns to beat the other depending upon the relative weights and the mood of the day though, overall, Smile Stone seems to have an edge. Mickey Mouse is closely related on the dam's side to Jersey Wonder who is contesting the Invitation Cup. The Disney character has an interesting pedigree configuration that may give a clue -- if not a convincing answer -- to his greater speed.

The average field rating of 108 is about par for this race. Only two of the 17 runners are rated below 100 making this a tricky race. Five of the runners have also accepted for a race on Sunday and it is difficult to know what their priorities are. Two sons of the mare Badraan -- Shivalik Star and Shivalik Storm -- are both in the fray. Both are black-type winners; their half-sister Eastern Aria won the DFS Park Hill Stakes, Gr.2 at Doncaster over 2900 m. !


It would be blasphemous to write about the Sprinters' Cup without paying a tribute to Common Land. No stallion has had as much impact on any race in India as the erstwhile Usha Stud horse has had on the Sprinters' Cup. From his very first crop he got the flying grey filly Calligraphy who won the race with utter ease in the fastest time till then. She has been followed by Klairon Gold (twice), Bergamo, Fun of the Fayre, Time and Place, Icelandic and Escapade to give him eight Sprinters' Cups. He was not done yet. His daughters -- Time and Place and Himafushi -- produced two more winners in Fire Arch and Polar Falcon. He also figures in the pedigree of dual winner Nefyn. 

Common Land was bred by Marston Stud and purchased by Mr. David Robinson for GBP 18,000, a high price for a yearling in those days. Mr. Robinson, a leading owner in England, sent Common Land to be trained by Michael Jarvis at Newmarket. Common Land raced 24 times over the three years that he remained in training winning twice over a mile. His best form was as a two year-old when he won the Grand Criterium International d'Ostende, Gr.1, Lester Piggott up, in Belgium and placed second in the July Stakes, Gr.3 at Newmarket,  Woodcote Stakes, L at Epsom and fourth in the Coventry Stakes, Gr.2 at Royal Ascot to give him a Timeform rating of 119.

He commenced in his stud duties in 1977 and his first crop born in 1978 contained not only Calligraphy who won the Sprinters' Cup but also the Indian Triple Crown winner Almanac. His last crop was born in 1995. From 18 crops of 233 named foals, he had 220 starters, 187 winners, 845 wins, 34 black-type winners and his progeny amassed Rs. 6,66,43,882 in stakes. He sired 17 individual Classic winners who won 41 Classics between them while his daughters produced an equal number of Classic winners who won 23 Classics. A Champion Freshman Sire, he was also the Champion Broodmare Sire in 1999-2000.

If Grey Gaston got Usha Stud off to a flying start, Common Land helped to consolidate that break. The arrival of Treasure Leaf in 1984 and the need to support and promote him denied Common Land the numbers he needed in his prime. He saw Razeen and Steinbeck arrive and Treasure Leaf depart. He died in December 1999. He led the last years of his life in contented retirement, wandering about his paddock in which saplings and shrubs sprouted. The late Maj Mehra reckoned that he must have been a gardner in his earlier life and called him "Green Fingers".

For the record, here are the other table toppers — Jockeys - V. Shinde and Y.S. Srinath (4 wins each), Trainers - R.R. Byramji and P. Shroff (4 wins) and Usha Stud (13 wins).