• Lady In Lace wins The Golconda 1000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Sana wins The Calcutta 1000 Guineas (Gr.3)
MAJOR P.K. MEHRA MEMORIAL SUPER MILE CUP, Gr.1
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 03 Mar 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

Historically, this has been a good race for the Classic crop with 19 of the 32 (59.4 %) renewals being won by the four year-olds. Unfortunately, it also has the lowest strike rate (34.4) for favourites among all the four invitational races. The Classic crop, which appears set to be playing truant on Saturday, has a better representation on Sunday. The mantle of being the favourite for the Super Mile is certain to fall on the four year-old Serjeant At Arms now that he has decided to take his chance in the shorter race.

That considered choice itself advertises what the connections feel and it is likely to mean that more money is heaped on Serjeant At Arms, causing him to start at a much shorter price. It will hence have to be debated whether the odds represent value before wagering on him. He has been beaten just twice in his nine-start career, both times by fillies trained by S. Padmanabhan. First, Ice Glacier beat him by three-parts of a length in the Mysore Derby and on his last start he went down fighting, losing to Hall of Famer by a length. There is no Padmanabhan runner in the Super Mile. He has never been beaten in four starts at Bangalore and he is also uneaten in three starts over a mile, two of them Gr.1 Classics. That justifies his starting as a favourite.

Acccolade was about the equal of Serjeant At Arms on their first year's running. Dr. Mallya's colt has lost some sheen in his second year failing to win either of his two starts at Calcutta, being beaten by Whomakestherules in the Calcutta 2000 Guineaas and finishing third to Hall of Famer and Silver Beauty in the Calcutta Derby. Like the Serjeant, he has decided to opt for a drop in distance; in addition, he has set his sights lower, preferring to line up for the Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, Gr.2 where he will also have to travel 200 m. less.  Serjeant At Arms and Accolade, both at their very best, have the class to provide a thrilling encounter. The prerogative of where to run their horses rests solely with the owners. They are much closer to their horses and have their own reasons for the choice they make. That needs to be respected.

It leaves three other four year-olds, all Classic winners at a mile, to add bone to Team Serjeant. The filly La Dona won the Mysore 1000 Guineas beating Ice Glacier by a neck. On her next start, Ice Glacier downed the colours of Serjeant At Arms. La Dona faced Hall of Famer in the Golconda 1000 Guineas and was a length and a quarter shy at the post to Padmanabhan's grey. Taken to Mahalakshmi for the Indian 1000 Guineas, La Dona was in a challenging position at the top of the straight only to peter out in the closing stages. She hasn't raced since then though he has recently had a mock race under Y.S. Srinath who had been astride the Usha-bred at Mumbai. No stud farm in India has bred more winners of the Super Mile than Usha Stud. It is a coveted race for that nursery now that it commemorates the name of its founder. 

The 'got-abroad' Common Wealth won the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes in June. Since then she has been twice second from three starts; once in the South India 1000 Guineas where she was actually first past the post but relegated on a successful objection by Aika Aika Aika while on her last start Fire Glow beat her comfortably, exploiting the 6 kgs. advantage effectively. In between those runs, the filly was a modest sixth in the South India Derby. The encouraging aspect of her last two starts was that she did not drift left as she had done in her previous two. Not so encouraging is the fact that only one 'got-abroad' -- Avalanche Star in 1998 at Hyderabad -- has won this race in 32 renewals. 

The remaining member of the Classic crop is Battalion who was slammed by Tororosso in the Bangalore Derby and now reverts to a mile which is a more suitable trip for him. He had earlier won the Bangalore 2000 Guineas; even prior to that the Nilgiris 2000 Guineas and Nilgiris Derby. Own Opinion and Chaitanya Chakram did win Classics at Ooty but Battalion does not appear to be of the same caliber as those stalwarts of yesteryears.

A factor of considerable importance in carrying out a military appreciation is 'relative strengths'. The Classic crop contenders have been discussed in some detail so it is time to switch the attention to their opponents, the older horses.  An eight year-old -- Arktouros -- has won the race and he did so at Calcutta when it was a smallish field that had only one member of the Classic crop. There were eight runners and first seven were covered by a length and a half at the finish. There is one eight year-old running on Sunday and that is Machiavellianism  who has been top miler in his heyday, a winner of Bangalore Colts' Trial Stakes and Indian 2000 Guineas. He has run thrice in the Super Mile before with the third to Myrtlewood and Bold Command last year being his best effort. It is over a year since his last win though he hasn't run a really bad race. He is a tough sort for his last start in the Qutab Shahi Million -- where he was third to Cameron and Galiat -- was the 51st of his career. You can be certain that he is reserving his best for the Sunday's race. It is a moot point, though, whether his best will be good enough to win.

The best hope, possibly, for the older brigade is Shivalik Showers. The six year-old who started out in Western India is now resident in Calcutta. A remnant of the Be Safe-Quasar generation, he has won graded races at all distances from a mile to 2400 m. His Exceed and Excel half-brother won the Prix de Moulin de Longchamp, Gr.1 and is now a stallion at Coolmore. A mile is perhaps a bit too sharp for him though if the pace is right, he can make his presence felt.

The highest rated of the "oldies" is Mickey Mouse who is also engaged in the Mysore Race Club Sprinters' Cup the previous day. How he fares in that race and what it takes out of him will have a huge bearing on his Sunday effort. In any case, he is essentially a 1400 m. specialist. The same can be said of Ace Bucephalus and Galiat. These two, along with Blazing Touch and Knight of Ke are yet to win a black-type race.  Auriga generally prefers to make his own pace. He has just three wins from 15 starts with two of them coming at Mysore; though, he established a new track record for 1400 m. in one and won a Gr.3 race over a mile in the other. He has a Herculean task to get better of younger mile Classic winners.  

For the first time in the last eight years, the average field rating has slipped down to double figures. What gives an edge to the Classic crop is that barring the long-in-tooth Machiavellianism, there is no Classic winner among the older horses.

PAST THE POST

This race has seen a very equitable distribution of the spoils. No professional tops his category with a tearaway margin. Pesi Shroff (Bergamo, Whopper and Accomplish) shares the top spot with Malesh Narredu (Palazzio, Algeciras and Diego Rivera).  Shroff, however, is a clear winner among the trainers with four wins (Diego Rivera, Cardinal, Amelia and Myrtlewood), one more than Dallas Todywalla (Bergamo, Avalanche Star and Priceless Asset).  Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy, expectedly, heads the owners table. His five winners (Oxford Blue, Avalanche Star, Priceless Asset, Spectacular Quest and Secret Memory) putting him just ahead of his perennial rival Mr. D. Khaitan (Acrobat, Adamile, Aboline and Arktouros).

The late Maj. P.K. Mehra set great store by speed. He once said that he did not mind if he bred no winners of the Stayers' Cup as long as Usha Stud produced enough winners of the shorter races. Usha Stud's 11 winners of the Super Mile Cup and 13 of the Sprinters' Cup puts that farm right on top. While horses have won the Sprinters' Cup as well as the Stayers' Cup twice, so far there hasn't been a dual winner of the Super Mile Cup. And, there won't be one this year.