• Ruffina wins The Sprinters Cup (Gr.1)
  • Azzurro wins The Dr M A M Ramaswamy Stayers Cup (Gr.1)
  • whomakestherules wins The Maj P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr.1)
  • Kangra wins The Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) in record timing
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 19 Jan 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The 75th renewal of the Indian Oaks, Gr.1 on Sunday has a field that is rare -- if not unique. For only the second time, it will be without the fillies which filled the first three spots in the Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 earlier. The only time this has occurred previously was in 1999-2000 when Her Excellency, Gold Dust and Ocean Breeze -- the 1-2-3 in The 1000 -- were missing from the Oaks line-up.

While it was known for some time that Windsor Forest and Ruffina would not venture over longer distances, the absence of the winner Lady In Lace has caused a bit of consternation. There are two bits of stable gossip doing the rounds. One says that the filly has had a set-back. The other avers that the connections are keeping their powder dry for the Indian Derby. There is truth in both the views. Reportedly, the filly had a bit of a physical problem, was held up in her work and is not fully wound up for the Oaks. It was hence considered prudent to skip the Sunday's race and get her spot on for the Derby. Though Windsor Forest made a heavy weather of downing Kangra in the postponed Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2, Ruffina was very impressive in dismissing a top class field in the Darashaw Million, Gr.3 at Mumbai. Both had been beaten by Lady in Lace in the Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 and the absence of the three top fillies not only diminishes the quality of the field but also denudes spectator interest.

Ten  fillies will circle behind the stalls just in front of the Members' Grandstand before they are loaded and they have an average rating of  57.8 which is the lowest in the last nine years. In races of this nature, horses rated below the average field rating have a very poor strike rate and it is best to ignore them though one of them will spring a surprise once in a blue moon. In the last 42 Indian Classics, just two horses -- that is 4.76 % -- having a rating less than average field rating have triumphed. The two highest rated fillies -- Manifold (88) and Daffodil (76) -- were both born at Usha Stud's Jhoond Sarai breeding station just north of Pataudi. Apart from them, only Themis (71) and Selfie Star (70) have a rating higher than the field average and these four fillies deserve a discussion.

It usually takes a very good horse to win the Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 and a horse which wins it more often than not adds another winter Classic to it. Manifold (Multidimensional - Dhaawiah) won it last year beating Castlebridge and so far she has not added to it. This race represents the best opportunity for her to do so. She hasn't run a bad race in her three starts since then which have all been around a mile. She stayed on determinedly to get the better of Castlebridge in Bangalore and the impression she gives  -- based on her pedigree and the manner of running -- is that she needs a galloping track, which she will now get. She has only been ridden by Neeraj Rawal so far but that jockey is claimed for Merveilleuse (Mastercraftsman - Attalea). It is most likely that David Probert will be astride her.

The schedule of the Indian Classics is such that there is no 'prep' race between the'1000' and the Oaks. Manifold will hence be running after 35 days after the '1000'. She appeared to have been 'over-cooked' for the mile Classic -- she was tracked on three consecutive days in week leading up to the race -- but is perhaps a bit 'undone' now having had just two track works in the interim. That is a point to be pondered upon.

After reeling off a hat-trick over progressive distances of 1400 m., a mile and 1800 m., Daffodil (China Visit - Hills and Stars) was sent for the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.2 where Sana beat her comfortably. Apparently, it was felt that she didn't stay and her two starts this term have been at a mile. She disappointed in both, being only sixth in the South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and a tame second in a Class 2 handicap at Mahalakshmi. On paper, she is bred to stay for her dam won the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 as well as the Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2. She certainly deserves a chance at this distance.

Themis (Lord Shanakill - Soul Society) won a good race over 2000 m. at Bangalore during the summer but hasn't built on that in four starts since. Her sire was a miler and the family is also essentially that of milers, the Epsom Derby winner Authorized being an exception rather than the rule. In some ways, she appears a bit like her stablemate Mekong Delta. More promise than performance.

Rated a point below Themis is Selfie Star (Excellent Art - Maharanee). This half-sister to the Calcutta Fillies' Double winner Silver Beauty is described as a 'grey' but is actually as white as can be. Two of her three wins are over a mile. She was taken to Hyderabad for the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 where she started as the favourite in a field which was even weaker than this one (AFD 47.6) and finished off-the-board. Even the maiden Classical Dancer finished ahead of her. She clearly did not stay the trip which not surprising since her sire appears to be working against any stamina that is there in the dam line.

With 36 favourites winning in the 74 renewals (48.65 %), it is a good race for the public fancies. This was the race with which Pesi Shroff started his Classic meter ticking with Blue Ribbon and he has so far won it six times including the last three runnings. He has three runners lined up. Four 'got-abroads' have won this race in the last ten years and there are four of them in the contest. There are also two maidens -- Angels Touch and Merveilleuse. Fifteen Classics have so far been run during the current year and eleven of them have been won by favourites and only Aggregated, Mahateji and Mauritania had not shown Classic pretensions during the summer/monsoon months. All that points heavily in favour of Manifold who should start as a very short-priced favourite. The niggardly odds will, fortunately, preclude a bet for most people for she represents no value whatsoever.


Daughterofthesun (Doctor Dino - La Sayida) is a 'got-abroad' who is a good example of how the Dosage Index can be misleading. She has a DI of 5.00 which suggests a brilliant sprinter but her lone win so far already disproves that since it came over a mile. Her sire was a late maturing sort who is a Gr.1 winner over 2400 m. in France while her grandam won the Prix de Diane, Gr.1  in the same country over 2100 m.  So you can be sure that Daughterofthesun will be winning over distances longer than those indicated by her dosage figures though this race is a bit too tough and a bit too soon.

Merveilleuse, whom Neeraj Rawal will be riding, is a bred-to-stay 'got-abroad' , has run just once so far, is still a maiden, is trained by Pesi Shroff and is also the lowest rated runner in the field. She will be sporting the all blue colours of Mr. Shyam Ruia. Lady Madonna, it has to be mentioned, carried the same colours to a victory in this very race in 1975 as a maiden. Surely, the lightning cannot strike in the same place twice !