• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
INVITATION WEEK-END AT CALCUTTA
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Tuesday 27 Feb 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

In the beginning, there was only the Indian Turf Invitation Cup and Calcutta hosted it for the first time in 1964. It was the second running of the race. In 2013, the Invitation Cup was thrown open to older horses and it befell on Calcutta to conduct it. In all, ten Invitation Cups have been run in the City of Joy.

The racecourse at Calcutta has a certain ambience. Located on the edge of the "maidan", it is overlooked by Fort William and from the stands you can see the Victoria Memorial on the opposite side. The Victoria Memorial provides a picturesque backdrop as the field passes in front of it little after going past the mile mark. The track begins turning gently to the right from 1000 m. till it comes into the straight. The straight is a short one of only about 400 m. One would have thought that the short straight would have affected the results. It is not so going by the statistics of the Gr.1 races run at the Invitation Cup week-end races. In all, 164 of these contests have been run at all courses in different cities and 68 favourites have won. That is a percentage of  41.46. Calcutta has hosted 25 of those contests with 15 favourites winning at an incredible percentage of 60.00.

There are only three instances of favourites winning all the four Gr.1 events over one week-end. Two of them have come at Calcutta. In 1985 and 2007. Statistics, though have no memory and the question -- "Will the favourites continue to rule the roost or will the law of averages begin to assert itself ?" -- is a one that will confront the backers come the first week-end of the next month.

In the meantime, brief details of previous 25 Gr.1 winners are given below. 

INVITATION CUP

7 Mar 1964   HOVERCRAFT (dk b f Golestan* - Hoverplane* by Airborne - Yeravada Stud) (15/1) (V. Faggotter)

Rani P.K. Devi Rana  (M. Galstaun)

4 Mar 1967  PRINCE REGENT (b c State Trumpeter* - Caroline by Decorum* - Broadacres Stud) (8/1) (V. Faggotter)

Mrs. C.K. Mahtab (D. McPherson)

6 Mar 1971  BRIGHT HANOVAR (dk b c Prince Pradeep - Brigandine* by Pink Flower - Yeravada Stud) (4/1) (G. McGrath)

Mr. M.D. Mehta and Mrs. Laxmi P. Lala (S.M. Shah)

2 Mar 1975  MIDNIGHT COWBOY (b c Young Lochinvar* - Take Cover by Asopo* - Qutab Stud) (5/4 on-fav) (R.W. Alford)

Maharani Gina Narayan of Cooch-Behar (Capt. H.D. Fownes)

9 Mar 1980  EVERYNSKY (b c Everyday II* - Not A Wink* by Narrator - Doaba Stud) (9/4) (A. Barclay)

Mr. & Mrs. S.C. Khatau and M/s. C.M. & K.C. Khatau) (R.R. Byramji)

3 Mar 1985  REVELATION (gr f Grey Gaston* - Monica by Prince Pradeep) (5/4 - fav - Usha Stud) (P. Shroff)

Mrs. Zeenia S. Lawyer, Mrs. Bakhtawar B. Chenoy, Maj. P.K. Mehra and Estate of the late Mr. N.M. Irani (B. Chenoy)

4 Mar 1990  DESERT WARRIOR (Malvado[CAN] - Maandavi by Red Rufus) (10 to 8 on - fav - Poonawalla Farms) (P. Shroff)

Mr. & Mrs. R.B. Jain, Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla and Mrs. Villoo C. Poonawalla (Altaf Hussain)

5 Mar 1995  ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL (ch c Wattlefield[GB] - Right Step by Ilheus[USA] - Hargobind Stud) (4/1 on - fav) (Aslam Kader)

Mr. D. Khaitan (R.R. Byramji)

11 Mar 2007 SOUTHERN EMPIRE (b g Placerville[USA] - Stunning by Ascot Knight - Poonawalla Farms) (6/4 on - fav) (C. O'Donoghue)

Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy and Mr. Z.S.Poonawalla  (S. Ganapathy)

3 Mar 2013  TINTINNABULATION (b g Intikhab - Tourmalet[GB] by Night Shift - Hazara Stud) (14/1) (P.S. Chouhan)

M/s. Vijay Kumar Gupta, Sushil Kumar Gupta & Ashish Bajaj and Estate of the late Mr. D. Partap Chander Reddy) (L.V.R. Deshmukh)

Overall strike rate for favourites - 23/55 (41.82 %). At Calcutta - 5/10 (50.00 %) 

SPRINTERS' CUP

8 Mar 1980  GUINDY GIRL (b f Thundering - Rosa Ramona by Matombo* - Manjri Stud) (15/1) (Nasir Beg)

M/s. S Satyamurti & S. Badridas) (Sajjad)

2 Mar 1985  BERGAMO (b h Common Land[GB] - Harrier[IRE] by Sea Hawk II - Usha Stud) - (6/4 on - fav) (H.J. Antia)

Sardar H.S. Brar, Miss Bubli Brar and Mr. & Mrs. A.K.S. Brar (D. Todywalla)

3 Mar 1990  STAR STYLE GIRL (ch f Boy Trumpeter - Next Move by Hard Held - Clive Stud) (9/2) (V. Shinde)

Mr. Suresh Mahindra (R.R. Byramji)

4 Mar 1995  EXCLUSIVE VIRTUE ( dk b h Excalibur's Lake[USA] - Bou Bou[IRE] by Balidar - Doaba Stud)  (6/4 on - fav) (Aslam Kader)

Mr. D. Khaitan (Bharath Singh)

10 Mar 2007 HAUNTING MEMORIES (ch f Placerville [USA] - Haunting Beauty[USA] by Barachois - Poonawalla Farms) (5/4  - fav) (C. O'Donoghue)

Dr. M.A. Ramaswamy and Mr. Z.S. Poonawalla (S. Ganapathy)

2 Mar 2013  NEFYN ( ch g Senure[USA] - Macrihanish by Razeen[USA] - Manjri Stud) (5/2 - fav) (J. Fortune)

Mr. Dilip Thomas and Mr. & Mrs. Shapoor P. Mistry (B. Chenoy)

Overall strike rate for favourites - 16/39 (41.02 %). At Calcutta - 4/6 (66.66 %)

STAYERS' CUP

2 Mar 1985  AZTEC (Jaandaar - Purita by Cornish Flame* - Bhopal Stud) (2/10 on - fav) (P. Cook)

Mr. J.P.Goenka (R.R. Byramji)

3 Mar 1990  BRAVE DANCER (gr h Ballo[FR] - Be My Guest by Mr. Mauritius) (6/4 on - fav) (R. Corner)

Mr. Babi Nobis (Vijay Singh)

4 Mar 1995  ASTRONOMIC (ch h Ilheus[USA] - Chaitanya Ratham by T.V. Sunday[USA]) - Dashmesh/Hargobind Stud) (13/4) (Aslam Kader)

Mr. D. Khaitan (Darius R. Byramji)

10 Mar 2007 APERITIVO (b g Diffident[FR] - Dramatic Irony by Trojan Fen[GB] - Manjri Stud) (6/4 - fav) (C. Rajendra)

Mr. D. Khaitan (Vijay Singh)

2 Mar 2013  NATIVE KNIGHT (b g Placerville[USA] - Native Tactics by Bluebird - Poonawalla Farms) (2/1 - fav) (Dashrath Singh)

Begum Shaherbanoo Lagad (N. Lagad)

Overall strike rate for favourites - 17/37 (45.95 %). At Calcutta - 2/4 (50.00 %)

SUPER MILE CUP

3 Mar 1985  BERGAMO (b h Common Land[GB] - Harrier[IRE] by Sea Hawk II - Usha Stud) (6/4 on - fav) (P. Shroff)

Sardar H.S. Brar, Miss Bubli Brar and Mr. & Mrs. A.K.S. Brar (D. Todywalla)

4 Mar 1990   Not Run

5 Mar 1995  ACCOMPLISH (b c Common Land[GB] - Treasure Land by Treasure Leaf[USA] - Usha Stud) (7/4) (P. Shroff)

Dr, Vijay Mallya and Mrs. Lalitha Mallya (R.R. Byramji)

11 Mar 2007 SECRET MEMORY (ch g Diffident[FR] - Memories of You by Don't Forget Me[IRE] - Manjri Stud) (3/1 on - fav) (C. O'Donoghue)

Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy (S. Ganapathy)

3 Mar 2013  ARKTOUROS (b g Diffident[FR] - Girl From Ipanema by Quiet American - Poonawalla Farms) (8/1) (C. Alford)

Mr. D. Khaitan, Mrs. Y. Khaitan and Mrs. D. Jalan (Vijay Singh)

Overall strike rate for favourites -  17/33 (36.36 %). At Calcutta - 2/4 (50.00 %)

PAST THE POST

The burning ambition of any owner, trainer, jockey or a stud farm would be to win all the Gr.1 at the same week-end. It is a mighty difficult feat to achieve, There are instances of one these entities ending the week-end with three wins but only two where they were "live" going into the 'last leg'.

The first of these came in in 1995 at Calcutta. On Saturday, Exclusive Virtue and Astronomic won their respective races. Both were owned by Mr. Deepak Khaitan and ridden by Aslam Kader but saddled by different trainers. When Aslam Kader ran away on Elusive Pimpernel on Sunday, he and Mr. Khaitan were in line for the elusive quadruple. For the Super Mile which followed, they had the favourite Exclusive Virtue. The proverbial slip between the cup and the lip came into play as Rashid Byramji-trained Accomplish won and Exclusive Virtue could only finish third.

Eleven years later at  a wet week-end in Bangalore in 2006, B. Prakash piloted Spectacular Quest and Forever Elegance for the Sprinters'-Stayers' double. Both of them were owned by Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy, trained by S. Ganapathy and bred at Poonawalla Farms. On Sunday, B. Prakash won the Invitation Cup on Mystical and so the jockey, the trainer, the owner and the stud were on the cusp of history. The three main contenders for the Super Mile, going by the betting, were the favourite Southern Regent (5/4), Spectacular Quest (9/2) and Amazing Power (5/1). If the favourite had won, the owner, the jockey, the trainer would have been over the moon but the Poonawalla Farms would have been plunged into gloom. A victory for Spectacular Quest would have given the Poonawalla Farms a dream four-timer but jockey Prakash would have despaired. As it turned out, Fate decreed not to take sides between the jockey and the stud farm and the race was won by Amazing Power.

That dream four-timer still remains elusive.