• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Kingfisher Ultra Derby Bangalore (Gr.1)
  • Desert God wins The Tetrasoft Inc. Bangalore St. Leger (Gr.2)
SPRINTERS' CUP, Gr.1 - 2018
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Thursday 01 Mar 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The Sprinters' Cup is the first Gr.1 on Saturday and Ruffina (Excellent Arrt - Miss Danehill) can get the betting fraternity off to a good start. Ever since the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Cup became a Graded race at Mahalakshmi in 1995, it has proved to be very reliable pointer to the sprint race at the Invitation Cup week-end. Of the 23 Sprinters' Cup winners in that period, 14 had run on their previous start in the Mahalakshmi trial. Of those 23, three have been at Calcutta and they have been won by Exclusive Virtue, Haunting Memories and Nefyn. Exclusive Virtue and Nefyn had come to Calcutta after winning the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Cup while Haunting Memories had not run in the race. Haunting Memories, though, had earlier won the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 just as Ruffina has.

Ruffina is a winner of seven of her eight races, her only defeat coming in the Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1. That race was over a mile, a distance perhaps a bit too far for one as brilliant as her. Since then, she has reverted to shorter distances, her last start victory in the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship, Gr.2 was eye-catching and she had in her wake Lincoln and Captain Courage who will be taking her on again.Her preferred style is to come from behind though she can race just off the pace. David Allan has ridden her in four of her victories and he is familiar with the Calcutta track and its peculiarities.  Thirty two years ago, trainer Dallas Todywalla announced his arrival on the big stage by saddling Bergamo to win the Sprinters' Cup-Super Mile double at Calcutta  while Dr. Cyrus S. Poonawalla, whose colours Ruffina carries, will be keen to win his first Sprinters' Cup.

The Western India-based Ruffina will be venturing out of her ken for the first time. Though the most impressive of the runners in the contest she shares the top rating with Multitude. The local horse Multitude (Multidimensional - Haedi) is a winner of 14 races from 26 starts. For someone who ran a two length second to Desert God in the Calcutta Derby over 2400 m., Multitude has made his transition to being a sprinter almost seamlessly. 10 of his 14 wins have come over 1200 m. And, here comes the most telling statistic -- he has never been beaten over 1200 m. in his eight starts at Calcutta ! That merely confirms his liking for the course and distance. He will be facing a much tougher bunch of rivals on Saturday. He ran in the Sprinters' Cup last year at Bangalore and he was only a length and a half  behind the winner Adam. Like the younger Ruffina, he too comes from behind. Over his favourite distance and in front of adoring home fans, he is sure to have a large following.

The last three Sprinters' Cups have been won by horses saddled by Pesi Shroff and carrying the U.R.B.B. colours -- Solomon and Adam, twice. Shroff comes here with a trio comprising of Lincoln and U.R.B.B. standard bearers Captain Courage and Adam. Lincoln's four wins thus far have all been over the minimum distance of 1000 m. -- he has an incredibly high DI of 7.00 --and he may be found out over the last part as he was in his last start by Ruffina. Captain Courage (Admiralofthefleet - Celestrella) is the highest rated of Shroff's runners but he finished behind Lincoln (Excelebration - Evelyn May) last time out. Captain Courage has won three of his five races over 1000 m. and two over 1200 m. It is only recently that he graduated to graded company from being a useful handicapper and he is yet to win a black-type race. That being so, he may find the opposition a bit too hot to handle. Besides, he is not really bred to be a sprinter, belonging as he does to the Charenzaccio branch of the Schiaparelli family.

Adam (Multidimensional - Adesina) is the lowest rated of Shroff's runners. Several horses have won back to back Sprinters' Cups but no one has gone on to bag a hat-trick that Adam in line for. At the age of eight, it is not going to be easy for Adam, either. Like last year, Shroff sent him off to Hyderabad, away from the spotlight, where he won his last start disposing of two four year-olds including Amorous White. His ten wins are equally spread over 1400 m. and 1200 m. but the shorter distance is the one over which he has excelled of late. The U.R.B.B. runners are invariably primed to land the big prizes and they have to be kept in mind on a big week-end such the coming one.

Only one other runner deserves to be discussed and that is the Bangalore mare Siobhan (Burden of Proof - Knockenduff).  She is speedy and has been a model of consistency having been on board in 20 of her 22 starts. She has mixed it up with the likes of Multitude and Captain Courage in some of her recent runs. Her owners, whose horses are always triers, are enjoying a well deserved purple patch at the moment and that may see her in the shake up.

History tells us that in the previous 39 renewals of this race, the Classic generation and the older generations have have come out about even. The older horses have provided 20 winners while the four year-olds have won 19 times. That's about as close at it can get. The average field rating this year is 109.6 and that is in keeping with the standard expected of this race.

PAST THE POST

In 2004, the Invitation Cup week-end was at Mumbai. Simply Supreme won the Invitation Cup while the Sprinters' Cup the previous day went to Shamaal. Both these winners were sired by Razeen and Shamaal remains the only Sprinters' Cup winner to have been sired by the Usha Stud stalwart.

Razeen was a sire whose progeny excelled essentially over Classic distances, He wasn't expected to get star sprinters. Two year's after Shamaal's victory, Spectacular Quest won the Sprinters' Cup at Bangalore. Spectacular Quest was a son of Placerville -- sire of six winners of the Indian St. Leger -- out of Forest Fantasy -- herself a winner of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup and the Indian Oaks -- whose sire was Razeen -- sire of four winners of the Indian Derby and four winners of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Even with those kind of antecedents, Spectacular Quest had the speed to win the Sprinters' Cup.

To add more mystique to the puzzle, in the years since Spectacular Quest, we have seen three more winners of the Sprinters' Cup whose dam was a daughter of Razeen. And, those three winners won the Sprinters' Cup twice each -- Attila (China Visit - Al Dente by Razeen), Nefyn (Senure - Macrihanish by Razeen) and Adam (Multidimensional - Adesina by Razeen).  Razeen would never have been thought of as a damsire of four winners of the Sprinters' Cup who won the race seven times between them.