• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Thursday 28 Sep 2017
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The Calcutta Monsoon Derby was first run only in 1994, making it is youngest of the Derbies in India. It was won by Too Hot To Touch owned by Mr. & Mrs. S. Bhattacharya, trained by S. Inyatullah and ridden by Warren Singh. Too Hot To Touch was a 'got-abroad', probably the best horse bred at Gee Stud, won eight races including the Taj Bengal Indian Champion Cup, Gr.2 twice. He was second in the Classic Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 and third in Classic Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 but never won a Classic after the Monsoon Derby. Nine of the 23 winners so far have gone to be Classic winners in the following winter season, all of them doing so at Calcutta barring Tiger Tops who also won the Villoo Poonawalla Indian Oaks, Gr.1. A winner of the monsoon Derby, though, is yet to win the Calcutta Derby in the winter.  The most popular horse to win this race has been Dandified who went on to chalk up 26 wins before retiring to go to Dashmesh Stud as a stallion.

This has been a good race for the favourites with 14 of them coming good in the 23 renewals. Only two chestnuts -- Accuser (2003) and Sanskara (2005) -- and a solitary grey -- Elistano (2004) -- have been successful which has also seen  four 'raiders' winning.  The Khaitan colours, as expected, were first past the post on numerous occasions; 11 times, to be precise. Brothers Vijay Singh and Bharath Singh have won the race seven times each while Chris Alford has been on a winner the same number of times. Usha Stud heads the honours for stud farms with nine victories. Alvarada won the race in 2000 and her first foal, the filly Amorina, emulated her in 2006.

In the last eight years, the winner has been an invader on four occasions with three of them being fillies and two trained by Pesi Shroff. He has sent Daffodil (China Visit - Hills and Stars) and the filly provides enough reasons to set the ball rolling. Daffodil is following in the path trodden previously by Tiger Tops who came to Kolkata after winning a 2000 m. race at Pune. Daffodil recently completed a hat-trick by winning a 1800 m. race in Pune and she bids fair to become the tenth filly to win this race. Her dam won the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 in record time and Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2 during her racing days and Daffodil is her first foal. More than her form or pedigree or the fact that she is the highest rated runner, Shroff's excellent strike rate when aiming for outstation Classics during the monsoons furthers her case.

The second highest rated horse in the field is the local colt Hartnell (Western Aristocrat - Mother's Pride). A model of consistency with just once off-the-board in nine starts, his Freshman Sire recently got off the Classic mark with Kangra. He himself won a 1800 m. Class II race on his home track recently and will get the distance because he comes from a staying family developed at Usha Stud. One would expect him to give a run for the money.

The result of the Indian St. Leger at Pune last Sunday would surely have boosted the stock of Sana (Multidimesnional - Yana) for she is a full-sister to Mathaiyus. Surprisingly, she has yet not been sent beyond a mile and she will surely relish the longer trip on the coming Sunday. In the winter, she was twice well beaten by Castlebridge and that colt has subsequently won the Bangalore Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 and finished a very close second to Manifold in the Derby Bangalore, Gr.1.  That is a strong form line.  Sana has finished ahead of Rufus, Shohin and Hartnell in the winter but much water has gone down the Hoogly since then. Sana was beaten in her last start over 1400 m. -- a distance palpably short for her -- by Windsor Forest. Windsor Forest is trained by Pesi Shroff so that handler will have a good idea of where Daffodil stands.

Dr. Vijay Mallya's URBB Ltd. is one smart racing operation in the country. Though it is based in Bangalore and it  has a small, quality string with Pesi Shroff and it wins several good runs by placing its runners astutely at other centres. Cold Frontier (Admiralofthefleet - Cool Jazz) is a final entry for this race -- it  cost Rs. 6,75,000 -- and that itself says a lot. A winner of one race over 1200 m., Cold Frontier placed third over a mile in his next start behind Apache Sunrise and Romantic Star and was vanned to Kolkata. He was to have run in the Calcutta Colts' Trial but reportedly had fever and so missed it. Though his dam and siblings have not won beyond a mile, Cold Frontier must hope that some stamina has trickled down to him from his grandam Miss X O Lence, a winner of the Classic Calcutta St. Leger, Gr.1. Being balanced inbred 3x3 to Mr. Prospector gives him more speed points as against stamina. The first raider to win this race was Dr. Mallya's Alice Springs so we need to acknowledge that the connections know what they are doing. A first three finish alone will recover the hefty final entry.  Cold Frontier comes from an Indian family that traces to the Australian mare Sea Green who came to India in the 1940s and was initially resident at the Bhopal Stud. The two Classic winners belonging to it -- Miss X O Lence and City Girl -- were bred at the Poonawalla Farms.

Sana is owned by Mr. Joydeep Datta Gupta in partnership with several other owners but in Shohin (Declaration of War - Aptiana) he has only one partner.  Shohin won the Elistano Handicap -- named after the only grey winner of this race -- making all the running over 1800 m. but ridden with restraint in his next over the same distance, finished a poor third to Washington. Shohin may be used to make the pace for the classier Sana.

Rufus (Lord Admiral - Youre So Beautiful) won the Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes beating Multiple in a time that was noticeably slower than that clocked by Windsor Forest in winning the corresponding Fillies' race. Lord Admiral, who produces good, consistent handicappers, is still looking for his first Classic winner. The dam of Rufus won the Fernhill's Palace Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and placed in several good races even in Western India. J Gatsby, a full-brother to Rufus, is a winner of three races but never raced beyond a mile. Like Sana and Shohin, Rufus is trained by Bharath Singh so the stable pecking order will be important.

The average field rating of the previous nine Calcutta Monsoon Derbies is 61.2. This year's field of six runners has an average rating of 63.33.


The four Derbies in October offer a rich purse and plenty of points and have the ability to affect the various breeding championship tables significantly. The most important of those tables are the Champion Stud Farm and Champion Sire. There have been past years when the October results have impacted those tables in a telling manner. This year, though, they may not be so not be so crucial.

Nanoli Stud has established such long lead that irrespective of the results, it will be crowned the Champion Stud Farm. The other four places in the top five are not so cut and dried. Usha Stud and Poonawalla farms are locked in a battle for the second and third spots and the same is true of the fourth and fifth positions where Manjri Stud and Kunigal Stud are vying. Sunday's Indian St. Leger, Gr. 1 outcome has given Usha Stud a bit of a break over Poonawalla Farms.

Multidimensional leads the Champion Sire Table over Phoenix Tower. If the progeny of Phoenix Tower wins two of the Derbies -- a tough call since he has no runner in Calcutta Monsoon Derby -- it could make for a close finish.