• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 15 Jun 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

It was in 1996 that this race was elevated to Gr.1 status and it has maintained a high standard ever since, though, of late, the average rating of the field has begun to slip. Last year, the average rating was below 40. Yet, Manifold who won that race went on to win the Kingfisher Ultra Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 the following month and won the Villoo Poonawalla Indian Oaks, Gr.1 in the winter besides being on board in two other Indian Classics.

Half of this year's field of ten comprises of maidens though it also contains three black-type winners. The highest rated filly is Punjabi Girl (Win Legend - Chapman's Peak) whose three wins so far include the Godolphin Barb Million, Gr.3 and Alcock Barb Million, Gr.3. Finishing second to her the former race was Catalonia while Realmsoffantasy occupied that spot in the latter. Her sire has already produced four Classic winning fillies while her dam is a Green Forest half-sister to the smart miler Winning Pretty. She certainly has the requisite pedigree. She had an easy outing at Bangalore in Dancing Dragon's race last month, finishing just off the board. Punjabi Girl is owned by Mr. P. Prabhakar Reddy and was in trainer Donald Netto's yard in Hyderabad. She is now with trainer Sulaiman Attaolahi. Last year, Mr. P. Prabhakar Reddy had Kangra -- in partnership with the Mahindras -- who also moved from Netto to Attaolahi just before the Bangalore Summer Season.

After winning on debut as a two year-old, Punjabi Girl was well beaten in the Byerley Turk Million, Gr.3 by Realmsoffantasy (Excellent Art - Glorious Fantasy). Punjabi Girl did not make it on the board while Catalonia finished second. However, her next start over 1400 m., Punjabi Girl turned the tables completely in the Alcock Barb Million, Gr.3. Realmsoffantasy belongs to probably the oldest Indian family -- that of Mindful -- and her grandam is a half-sister to the Indian-Derby-Invitation Cup heroine Revelation. Both Realmsoffantasy's wins so far have come over 1200 m. and she has not raced since the end of February.

Catalonia (Air Support - Cesandri) scored on her debut as early as 25 October and is the first winner from the 2015 crop. That win got her Freshman Sire off the mark. She was second in her next two starts at Hyderabad, first to Realmsoffantasy in the Byerly Turk Million, Gr.3 and then to Punjabi Girl in the Alcock Barb Million, Gr.3. Her trainer L.V.R. Deshmukh then took her to Mumbai -- her owners are Mumbai-based -- where she bagged the Forbes Breeders' Juvenile Championship, Gr.3 to make her the only runner this Sunday to have won over a mile. That is a good race which has often showcased a future star though this year's renewal was modest at best. In her 'lung-opener' at Bangalore, she matched strides with the unbeaten Sir Cecil till the bend before being outclassed and throwing in the towel to finish a double distance behind the grey. She will come on for that outing and should be seen in a much different light now.

Isn't She Lovely (Excellent Art - In The Spotlight) is the first foal of her mighty dam. She won on her debut last month but Trevor had to work hard to get her home. Different League and Play Safe finished behind her that day. There were three 1400 m. races that day and the filly recorded the slowest time; three year-old Capricious carried more weight and registered a better time time later in the card. Trainer Padmanabhan had the charge of In The Spotlight throughout her glittering career and is also the only trainer to have a trained an Excellent Art Classic winner. So he ought to know Isn't She Lovely well. The filly will step out much fitter but appears, despite her pedigree, a bit short of experience and form. Like Isn't She Lovely, Tic Tac Ipsy Tipsy (Western Aristocrat - Mutually Mine), is a winner of her only start over 1400 m. during the last winter season at Bangalore in a smart time. She has a speed oriented pedigree but on the little evidence that we have, her sire's produces has shown an ability to outrun the pedigree.

Of the maidens, only one warrants a mention and that is Natalma (Multidimensional - Pricewise). There are two reasons for that. One, she carries the same name as one of the great broodmares -- dam of Northern Dancer and ancestress of a host of other notable runners -- of the latter half of the 20th century. Secondly, she is trained by Pesi Shroff who has sent out five winners of this race in the last ten years. Natalma is yet to race at Bangalore but Jacqueline, Amelia and Manifold won on their first start in the Garden City. Pricewise is a full-sister to Whomakestherules and Starry Eyes -- two Classic level horses -- and certainly has the potential. However, only the close connections will know if she is in earnest on Sunday or just out for an experience gathering mission.It is perhaps the latter.

By and large, the winners of the black-type races for three year-olds at Hyderabad have failed to to grab the limelight subsequently; as such, Catalonia's win at Mumbai over a mile may just have an edge despite the fact she was twice beaten at Hyderabad. The three Hyderabad fillies -- Punjabi Girl, though, may now fall in the ex-Hyderabad category -- are all black-type winners and the three highest rated in field. There isn't much to choose between them and none of them is a previous start winner. Odds will certainly dictate the value.


The new millennium kicked off with the favourites obliging. Then came the 'shockers' -- Lindsay and Glorious Breaker. Lindsay paid Rs.1426 for win on the Tote and Glorious Breaker went one better with a dividend of Rs. 1680. Then there was a hat-trick of favourites but since Set Alight triumphed in 2008, no favourite has won, Only two top rated fillies -- Maisha and Eternal Flame -- have won in the last decade and strictly from memory, a maiden has never won this race.

Of the trainers with runners on Sunday, L.V.R. Deshmukh, Pesi Shroff and S. Padmanabhan have saddled a winner. Padmanabhan's last winner, Wandering Star, came twenty years ago.  Among the jockeys, Srinath, Zervan, Sandesh, Neeraj Rawal and John have ridden a winner. S.S. Attaolahi and Suraj Narredu, two high profile names in their respective professions, are still looking for their first.