• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 22 Jun 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

After the first round of matches in FIFA World Cup in Russia, Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Spain -- yes, all four of them ! -- were without a win. Who would have imagined that ? Football has its rankings, record of past performances and a plethora of highly developed statistics. Football, though, is only a sport; and, in sports, an invisible script often comes to the fore to render all predictions simplistic and way off the mark.

Coming to this Sunday's big race, few will argue that two colts stand above their five rivals.  Sir Cecil (Win Legend - Elusive Trust), who is unbeaten in his three starts and  and Star Superior (Excellent Art - Ramjet), who has lost just once in his four. These two colts have not raced against each other nor have they raced against horses through whom a valid comparison can be made. That merely adds to the intrigue and gives the supporters of the two sides the right to claim bragging rights.

The unbeaten Sir Cecil has won all his three races by a combined winning margin of 27 and a half lengths. He has treated his rivals with utter disdain and has so far not found anyone capable of matching strides with him in the run-in. A full-brother to Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby, Gr.1 victress Hall of Famer, Sir Cecil has been more precocious than his sister who won her first race only towards the end of the Bangalore summer season. He has done everything expected of him so far and it is superfluous to say anything more about him.

Five siblings of Star Superior have won 23 races between them. None of those 23 races was beyond a mile nor a black-type race. Star Superior's grandam, though, was a full-sister to the unbeaten McDowell  Indian Derby, Gr.1 winner Exhilaration as well as Classic Conquest who won this very race. His own dam placed second in the Airtel Indian Oaks, Gr.1. Star Superior won on his debut at Bangalore and was then taken for the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 where Corfe Castle proved too good for him. Star Superior remained in Mumbai and on the next start scored an emphatic victory in the Shapoorji Pallonji Breeders' Juvenile Colts' Championship, Gr.3, clocking 1.35.77 for the mile trip -- the fastest time for the distance on the round course in recent years. In winning his 'lung-opener' impressively this term in Bangalore, Star Superior showed that he had improved as he beat Athaneus by a longer margin than in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1. He is at the top of his game and a worthy foe to Sir Cecil.

Both Sir Cecil and Star Superior have had a winning run during the current season. Both carried the same weight, both ran over 1400 m. and the penetrometer reading on both the days was almost identical. Star Superior's winning time is much superior but Sir Cecil, who won by a whopping 18 lengths, was being eased down well before the winning post. The two timings hence are not really comparable. The grey colt did not fight shy of matching strides with Catalonia in his race in the early part and then simply strode away from the filly. Star Superior, in his last two wins, has been content to be handy, cruise up rounding the bend and challenge the front runners soon after entering the straight. It is unlikely that either camp will will radically tweak the tactics which have proven successful. The race may well be decided around the 400 m. pole.

Though he is bred to get a much longer trip, a mile at this stage of his career may not inconvenience Sir Cecil. For Star Superior, the distance is just about right. While Sir Cecil has been ridden by a different jockey in each of his three starts, Star Superior has been piloted only by Suraj Narredu in all his four. There is, really, nothing to suggest that one holds an edge over the other and the final choice may well have to be based on what the heart says or the value of the odds. 

There are five other runners and theoretically they all have a chance to upset the aspirations of the two stalwarts. However, that is very unlikely. Star Superior has finished ahead of Spitfire and Van Dyke in Bombay and beaten Rikki Tikki Tavi as well as Super Dart on his last start by comfortable margins. Those margins are hard to overturn. Besides, all those five runners have a lower rating than average field rating -- 54.8, slightly higher than the average of recent past for this race -- and in about 90 % of cases such horses do not win. Last Sunday, Punjabi Girl, a daughter of Win Legend, held two Excellent Art fillies -- Realmsoffantasy and Isn't She Lovely. This Sunday, Sir Cecil, a son of Win Legend, faces the challenge of two Excellent Art colts in Star Superior and Rikki Tikki Tavi.


The Sir Cecil camp will be buoyed by the fact that eleven of the previous winners of this race were unbeaten going into the race and they came up trumps. Sir Cecil is a grey and there has been some talk of greys not cutting it at the highest level. Well, five previous winners of this race -- Silver Jet, Young Turk, Brave Dancer, Lucky Shrike and Bold Gesture -- were greys. That is five in 59 renewals. 

Supporters of Star Superior will take heart from the fact that Excellent Art's only Classic winner so far -- Mauritania -- got the honour on this very track and over this very distance. What's more, Mauritania was out of a mare bred on the Placerville-Malvado cross as is Ramjet, the dam of Star Superior.

Silver Jet, the first grey to win this race in 1965, was also the first Classic winner owned by Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy. Silver Jet won in the colours of M/s. M.A.M. Muthiah and M.A.M. Ramaswamy. A little known fact about Silver Jet is that he was also the first Classic winner with whom R.R. Byramji is associated. Byramji was the breeder of Silver Jet.

With eight favourites winning this millennium, the race has been a good one for horses carrying the public money. However, it is also on record that two of India's most successful horses, Squanderer and Own Opinion, failed to do so.