• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Thursday 13 Jul 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

From its very first year, when Mount Everest won the race, Bangalore's summer Derby has been a race of much significance. Mount Everest went on to win the inaugural Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at Mumbai. Since then, 18 other winners of the race have gone on to win either the Indian Derby or the Invitation Cup and some have won both. If not the Indian Derby or the Invitation Cup, quite a few others have won a Gr.1 Classic in the winter.

So, in looking for a winner of the Derby Bangalore, a long-term perspective is important. Of the 56 renewals so far, a winner of the fillies' or colts' races which take place the previous month has won the Derby Bangalore 27 times -- 19 colts and eight fillies -- for a strike-rate of 48.2 %. As such, in attempting to unravel this year's puzzle it is best to start with Castlebridge and Manifold.

Castlebridge led all the way in his race and won easing down in a race record time. His grandam Castle Park (by Diffident) and all her descendants so far have won only up to a mile. There is plenty of class and stamina in this Charenzaccio branch of the Schiaparelli family but the question does crop up whether Diffident's sprinting influence has permeated this stirp. Off hand, one can recall four winners of the Derby Bangalore -- Chaitanya Chakram, Aboline, Borsalino and Alaindair -- who have won the race going start to finish. In any case, it is also a race which has been won by top class milers but front running leaves a horse somewhat vulnerable. Castlebridge certainly appeals at the rights odds. His trainer Bharath Singh is the last Kolkata trainer to have won the colts' race and Derby Bangalore and he did that with Bold Gesture in 1995. Bold Gesture won the mile race coming from behind. In the Derby, it took a while for Aslam Kader to take him through the field but he was clearly in the lead passing the mile marker; technically, not quite start to finish. Trevor has chosen him over Shaman. The jockey's choice in the colts' race -- Capo di Capi over Castlebridge -- proved wrong so he has some amends to make. It is on his recommendation that the connections have forked out a substantial final entry.

The last filly to bag the double of the Fillies' race and Derby Bangalore was Set Alight and she was trained Shroff. Shroff will be attempting to emulate that feat with Manifold this year. She won her race in a fighting finish and is bred to stay. Her time was slower than that of Castlebridge a week later though it has be said that the going was much faster on the colts' race day. She did get the better of her former paddock companion Romantic Star who was running within a week of her debut victory. Romantic Star is bred even more stoutly than Manifold and would  have certainly benefitted from the experience gained and a proper gap between races. Her dam Moonlight Magic won this race while the next dam Wandering Star, trained by Padmanabhan,  ran second to Star Supreme in 1997. Unfortunately, Romantic Star won't be running. The whispered reason is that her trainer was unable to find a suitable jockey, even from abroad. However, he is running Aaron The Baron. Windsor Forest would certainly have run closer in the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 had she not encountered some interference in the closing stages. Her preferred jockey Suraj Narredu is sidelined through injury and it is likely that a mile suits her better.

Second to Castlebridge was Perfect Star who finished on well from the rear. He won over a mile on Mahalakshmi's galloping track on the Indian Derby day, making him one of the earliest -- if not the first -- of his crop to win over that distance. That being so, it may be churlish to question his ability to tackle longer distances. The fact, however, is that 21 descendants of his grandam Virginia Princess have won 76 races in India and only four of those races were beyond a mile and none in excess of 2000 m. If the grandam of Castlebridge is by Diffident, the dam of Perfect Star is by the same stallion.  Excellent Art, the sire of Perfect Star, stood at Coolmore Stud in Ireland before coming to India. He had five crops abroad and average winning distance of his progeny is 8.4 furlongs. Perfect Star's trainer Karthik Ganapathy is comparatively inexperienced at this level though it needs to be mentioned that he did saddle the winner of the Indian Oaks Maple Star some years ago. Horses often outrun their pedigrees so like Castlebridge, Perfect Star is very much in the mix; it is just that their odds must represent value given what at the moment appear as question marks.

The wild card in the race is Shaman (Burden of Proof - Set Alight). A winner of his last two races from three starts, he is attempting to complete the hat-trick on his debut in graded company. Like Romantic Star, he is out of a mare who won this race in her time. His full-sister Satellite gradually -- and eventually -- worked her way into higher echelons, at the same time showing that she was more comfortable at shorter distances. Shaman is a different individual conformationally, has already won over 1800 m. and if he has inherited more of his illustrious dam than his full-sister, he is a definite threat to established stars. It is good to remember that in a Classic, a U.R.B.B. runner cannot be ignored irrespective of who the jockey is and what the odds are. In 2002, Classical Act won the Derby Bangalore on only his second start; Shaman is far more experienced.

Of the runners that participated in the fillies' and colts' races, Olympia Fields merits some consideration. Like Perfect Star, he came from behind, had a clear run on the inside and finished on well. Perfect Star and Olympia Fields started their runs at about the same time, passed Tutankhamun on either side and the former got the better of the latter for the second place. Olympia Fields is by Western Aristocrat, a high level mile plus horse on tight American tracks and it remains to be seen how much stamina he imparts to his 'gets'. Or, how well he melds with the stamina inherent in a dam such as Abs Fabs.

On form, none of the other runners who participated in the fillies' and colts' races look capable of winning even if they run a better race. Chief of Command lost his unbeaten record and a lot of friends with his abject run. In any case, Foley's ward comes from a short running family. Zenon drifted out at the flyover bend in Castlebridge's race and raced wide throughout while Kangra showed plenty of toe in Manifold's race before dropping out. Zenon's thrashing of recent Chief Minister's Cup, Gr.3 winner Denny Crane in a morning workout was eye catching. He has the pedigree and may be worth a small insurance flutter.

How the race is run could have a significant bearing on the eventual outcome. Castlebridge will be quickly off the gates but it won't be long before likes of Kangra and Angel Power join him. Will he fight for the lead or drop back into a box seat ? Manifold and Shaman will almost certainly come from behind and both would appreciate a true run race.

Seven out of the 16 winners this millennium (37.5 %) have been favourites. Trainers Bharath Singh,  S. Padmanabhan, P. Shroff, Arjun Mangalorkar and S.S. Attaolahi have previously sent out a winner of this race while jockeys Y.S. Srinath, C. Alford, A. Sandesh  and P. Trevor have ridden a winner. There are 14 runners left-in though it is likely that Sana will not run. The 'got-abroad' Hope Is Eternal is probably running to justify his name for he is still a maiden. The average field rating is 53.5 as against the average of 62.3 of the last ten years.


As already mentioned, eight winners of the fillies' race have also won the Derby Bangalore. That number may well have been nine because the legendary trainer R.R. Byramji believes that Sweet Memories would have hacked the field in 1974 had she run. That filly's return from a grievous injury to beat her contemporaries justifies her trainer's belief.  Sweet Memories had won the Fillies' Trial Stakes by seven lengths which then was the longest winning margin of that race. However, Sweet Memories did not run in the Derby Bangalore because she was not entered and in those days there were no options of supplementary or final entries. In the absence of the star filly, the spectators were treated to the one and only dead-heat in Derby Bangalore between Skyline and Mauritius Pearl.