By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Thursday 08 Feb 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

A good question for a racing quiz would be -- "How many regional Derbies have been run AFTER the Indian Derby ?"

While those intrigued by the question wrack their brains for the answer, let's try and figure out how this week-end's Bangalore Derby, which is being run exactly a week after the Indian Derby, is likely to pan out. What is obvious is that this late Derby has drawn a field that is the largest of this winter. The 15 runners have an average rating of 66.7 which is about 5 points lower than the average of recent years. (On the BTC website, Prevalent Force is shown as being rated 91 and Zenon as 40. I have taken the higher figures from RWITC site).

There are three Classic winners in the contest and it is just right to start with them. The first, of course, is Prevalent Force, the beaten favourite of the Indian Derby in which he was the joint top-rated runner. It is not necessary to recount how he came to given that rating but it is more pertinent to ponder upon his running in the race. He was, perhaps, kept too far off the pace but it is also true that his finishing effort was laboured. Yet, he was only about three and a half lengths off the winner. The question to be asked is whether a similar level of performance will suffice to win this race which has a much lower quality field. It is almost certain that had he won at Mahalakshmi, he would not have been running here. So this is obviously an after-thought. What the Indian Derby took out of the horse and how arduous the travel to Bangalore was are other points to consider. He will, in all probability, start the favourite once again, may be at even shorter odds so it is for each individual decide if he one bad day the office can be over looked. His credentials still look good while only a very astute eye will be able to gauge his condition.

The other Derby winner is Mahateji. She has won two 2400 m. races, the only one of her crop to do so. She won both those races by an identical margin of one length and what she beat was nothing much. She will be up against much more formidable opponents this Sunday. Her dam line is essentially a speedy one but having won two races over the distance, she must be given the benefit of doubt. What was most noticeable about her wins is that her pilot Fergus Sweeney seems to have a bond with her. In both the races, he alerted her at the right moment and the filly obliged for him to win cleverly.

Course distance winner Kangra, a winner of three Classics, is shown as being rated 66 while Star Carnation, who has won three handicap races, is also at the same mark. Much food for thought. Kangra had it all too easy when winning the Bangalore Oaks on the Republic Day. She was allowed an uncontested lead, Masquerade fell and Windsor Forest failed to stay. She is a game filly who deserves respect though she will be finding herself in the deep end in the Derby.

Four of the contestants have also placed in Classics over 2400 m. Nanhipari was a length shy of Mahateji in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2; Selfie Star was almost a distance behind the winner in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 and Villoo Poonawalla Indian Oaks, Gr.1; Lord of the Sea was a shade over eight lengths behind Prevalent Force at Guindy while Romantic Star just got on the board in the Golconda Derby, Gr.1, about two lengths behind Mahateji. It will be a surprise if Nanhipari — who does not appear classy enough, Selfie Star —  unlikely to have developed stamina suddenly, or Lord of the Sea — the stable has a better candidate — were to win. The same cannot be said of the enigmatic, exasperating Romantic Star. This filly is yet to run to the potential of her pedigree. Her last run the Golconda Derby, Gr.1 was an improvement on her earlier effort at Guindy. She appears to be a dark 'un here.

Zenon was running in a race after two months last Sunday. He was soon among the front three, stalked stable-mate Daffodil when Aggregated dropped back and went past her easily to be leading the Derby field at 400 m. He led for another 100 m. before retiring when Lady in Lace took it up. Let's assume that the Bangalore Derby was his real target while the Indian Derby was his mock race. If the assumption is correct, he runs with a good chance for he will come on for that effort. Of course, if the assumption is wrong and he ran the Indian Derby in all earnest, his chances become more speculative. He is bred to stay and has two wins over 2000 m. in handicaps.


"Bigger the field, the greater the certainty" is a very old racing aphorism. There are fifteen runners who have accepted for Sunday's race and that makes it the joint-biggest field. There have been two previous occasions when 15 runners went to the post -- in 1986 when Dupont won and in 2011 when Sun Kingdom scored. Both Dupont and Sun Kingdom won as favourites. On the subject of favourites, 20 favourites have won in the previous 43 renewals (46.5 %) of this race.

R.R. Byramji with 10 wins and Vasant Shinde with 7 top their charts. Razeen with five winners as a sire and three as the damsire is a clear leader. Neither Byramji, nor Shinde, nor Razeen are going to add to their tally but their records are not in the immediate danger of being eclipsed.

We started with a question so we might as well end with two:-

How many winter Derbies were run during morning racing ?

Which horse has won two winter Derbies with the least time gap between them ?