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INDIAN ST. LEGER, Gr.1
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Thursday 21 Sep 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

When the Indian Classics were introduced in 1942-43, there were just three of them. The Indian Oaks and Governor-General's Cup were added the following year. After India became a Republic in 1950, there was no Governor-General and the hence the Governor-General's Cup became the Indian St. Leger. The race was run at Mumbai till, in 1970, it was shifted to Pune and run later in the year. The first Pune chapter lasted till 1990. From 1991, the race went back to Mumbai because a sponsor had been found for the Indian Triple Crown and he wanted the three races to be compressed over a shorter time span. In 2009, the Mumbai winter season commenced very late due to a viral epidemic and since the Indian St. Leger could not be fitted in the truncated season it was run in Pune. In 2010, it went back to Mumbai but returned to Pune in 2011 and has been run there ever since.

A Pune St. Leger offers a  better venue for the St. Leger because the course is undulating, weather sometimes renders the going more demanding and the shorter straight calls for a hopeful runner to be not too far out of his ground coming into the straight. Times change and thinking changes along with it so one can never be certain where it will be run ten years hence. This year, though, it is at Pune and a keen contest is very much in the offing.

It is interesting to study the pattern of recent Indian St. Legers run in Pune, especially their previous run:-

Year

Idar Gold Cup Winner

President Of India Gold Cup Winner

Indian St. Leger Winner

2009

Yana (x) 

Set Alight (x)

Antonios (2nd in Idar Gold Cup)

2010

 

 

Run at Mumbai

2011

Macchupicchu

Ordained One

Macchupicchu (Ordained One 3rd)

2012

Spearhead (x)

In The Spotlight

In The Spotlight

2013

An Acquired Taste

Native Knight (x)

An Acquired Taste

2014

Amazing Charm

Alaindair 

Amazing Charm (Alaindair 2nd)

2015

Shivalik Showers

Quasar

Quasar (Shivalik Showers 3rd)

2016

Azzurro (x)

Desert God

Desert God

In the table above, (X) indicates that the horse did not run in the Indian St. Leger. The Idar Gold Cup and the President of India Gold Cup are the ideal lead-up races for the Indian St. Leger. Both these races are open to older horses so if an older horse wins one of these races, he -- or she -- is not eligible to run the Indian St. Leger - still limited to 4-year-olds. Set Alight was a four year-old and could have run in the Indian St. Leger but chose not to. There is only one instance -- 2009 –– of winners of both the Idar and President's not being in the St. Leger field and Antonios, second to Yana in the Idar Cup, utilized the opportunity to score. Thrice, in 2011, 2014 and 2015, both the winners participated in the St. Leger and the Idar Cup winner came up trumps twice and President of India Gold Cup winner once.

It would hence appear that either Temerity -- winner of the Idar Cup -- or Mathaiyus -- the winner of the President of India Gold Cup -- should win the final Indian Classic of the year. Unfortunately, sporting events are not decided by history alone. History is as often repeated as it is created and that is the true fascination of any sporting contest. Apart from Temerity and Mathaiyus, there is only one other Gr.1 winner in the field and that is Captain Morgan who won the Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy Chettiar of Chettinad Memorial Stayers' Cup, Gr.1. The winner should emerge from these three.

Temerity, with seven wins from 10 starts, has the best win percentage. After winning the Indian Turf Invitation Cup at Bangalore, she had a long spell of rest till she re-appeared, after a gap of almost six months in the Idar Gold Trophy, Gr.3 at Pune. Given her long absence, her win in that race was pleasing.,She won from end to end, -- the first 400 m. were traversed at a funeral pace -- and when her only serious challenger Colombiana ranged alongside at the top of the straight, he was simply shrugged off.  She has so far not essayed a distance beyond 2400 m.

Mathaiyus did not make his debut till September last year and did not win in his two starts at Pune. He then reeled off five straight wins to which he has added the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2 and President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1. He gets less time to recuperate after his last win with travel to and from Hyderabad thrown in. In his last five starts he has faced Captain Morgan and the two have taken turns to win alternately so the score is 3-2 in favour of Mathaiyus who, like Temerity, is trained by Pesi Shroff. It is noticeable that when he goes to the head of affairs and is allowed to dictate the terms, he is very much in his element as he was in the Bangalore St. Leger and the President of India Gold Cup. In the Governor's Cup, on the other hand, Ice Glacier did the early running and Mathaiyus only took over in the second half of the race.

Captain Morgan was expected to win the B.N. Gudiyappa Bangalore Derby, Gr.1 but ran a poor third. He then bounced back to win the South India St. Leger, Gr.2 at Chennai and the Stayers' Cup, Gr.1 at Bangalore so stamina is not an issue. When in mood, he produces a sparkling finishing effort from well off the pace; at other times, he tends to plod. In the President of India Gold Cup, he has an excuse in that the riderless Booker Jones raced in his close proximity. Booker Jones did not actually interfere with him but a riderless horse is disconcerting and Suraj Narredu, riding Captain Morgan for the first time, may have been distracted, keeping one eye on the loose horse.

A worthy outsider is Whomakestherules. The son of Multidimensional ran into physical problems after beating Accolade in the Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 last December and was then off the course for about six months. He had two starts during the Bangalore summer season, placing fourth in the Chief Justice's Cup, Gr.3 (to Mathaiyus) and second in the Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2 (to Captain Morgan). Those results certainly bring Whomakestherules in the mix. He hasn't raced since but has had a sparkling mock race and while he hasn't won beyond 2000 m. so far but is bred to stay, his dam being a full-sister to St. Leger winners Allied Forces and Perceived Value. Like Mathaiyus, he likes to make the running and it will be interesting to see who chooses to sit back. If they both decide go for each others throat early in the race, it may just make it easier for Temerity and Captain Morgan.

The result of the Indian St. Leger on Sunday hinges on the way the race is run. Though Temerity won her last race by going to the front, it more likely that it will be Mathaiyus or Whomakestherules who will dictate the pace with the filly always handy. Captain Morgan will rely on his finishing burst. Shroff saddles two of the three main contenders though it is probable that Temerity's owners -- rather than the trainer -- will chalk out the filly's running tactics. The pace of the race will be crucial. Interestingly, Temerity has never lost at Pune; Mathaiyus has never won at Pune while Captain Morgan and Whomakestherules will be having their s first run on the track.

In 1986, three horses flashed past the post, their finishing order not discernable to the naked eye. The camera gave the race to Amorous Knight with Silver Haven second and Solitary Splendour third, mere short-heads separating them. Pesi Shroff rode the winner. Since becoming a trainer, he has won the race twice. While he will be hoping to lead the winner, he must be praying that he is spared the agony of waiting for the camera verdict. This year's average field rating of 102.5 is a shade higher than the average of recent Pune renewals.

PAST THE POST

Mathaiyus and Captain Morgan have already demonstrated that they can get the distance; Temerity should, going by the manner of her running and pedigree. Temerity comes from an Aga Khan family steeped in stamina though her sire Intense Focus was a speedy sort who retired early to stud so we can only speculate on how far he would have gone. He was not bred to be a pure speed horse. Yana, the dam of Mathaiyus, was a half-sister to the McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1 winner Starsky and herself a winner of the Poonawalla Stud Farms and Breeders Stayers' Cup, Gr.1. She comes from a Tesio family. Captain Morgan's grandam won the Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2; the third dam won the McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1 and the fourth dam won the Northumberland Cup, L over 3200 m. This is an old Indian family developed at the Renala Stud.

The winner will be the one who stays best on Sunday. Ability to stay is a relative parameter; not an absolute quality. There has some discussion about Dosage Index recently. Dr. Roman's Dosage Index theory is a good, general indicator of stamina potential. It is not a magical formula to predict a winner of a race though it is often used as such by several people. For those interested, the Dosage numbers of the four main contenders are:-

Captain Morgan          Profile 7-2-9-0-0       DI 3.00   CD 0.89

Mathaiyus                   Profile 5-5-11-1-0    DI  2.38  CD  0.64

Temerity                      Profile 1-1-12-0-0    DI 1.33    CD  0.21 

Whomakestherules      Profile  4-3-10-1-0   DI  2.00   CD  0.56

A horse with a DI of 3.00 should not be winning a 3000 m. race. Captain Morgan has. Besides, it is yet to be satisfactorily explained by a votary of dosage system how a winner of the Indian Derby and Invitation Cup (Moonlight Romance) and a dual winner of the Sprinters' Cup (Attila) have the same Dosage Index of 2.00.