All roads lead to Mahalaxmi as its the First Sunday of February and that means Derby Day! RWITC has done well to make it into Derby Weekend with well filled cards on Saturday and Sunday. Obviously Hyderabad missed a connection somewhere because they too unnecessarily race on Saturday. The RWITC site is going to carry an article which will describe the Derby as Exquisite, Magnificent, Grand or similar (my friend Eruch Mody could help add a few more words there). So here is my two bits on India’s Derby and a note on the main runners.
Be Safe (Holy Roman Emperor- Oriental Lady by King’s Best) This horse is without a doubt the gold standard of the 2011 Foal crop. He should be unbeaten but was hooked in last year’s Poonawalla Million. Since then his trainer Malesh Narredu has drafted in nephew Suraj to sit atop his charge and Be Safe has been mega impressive as he has won the Bangalore Colts’ and Summer Derby and his victories in the Indian 2000 and Ruia Cup in the winter have looked like the proverbial walk in the park. Is there a chink in his armour? If I were to nit pick the only thing this horse lacks is a race over a mile and a half. That said, he ought to stay even though his broodmare sire King’s Best was a top miler and won the English 2000 Guineas for Michael Stoute. His sire Holy Roman Emperor only raced as a Two Year old so we never got to see him over a trip. In my opinion he would have seen out a mile and interestingly he has already sired an Indian Oaks winner in Smashing who was also runner up in the Indian Derby, though her broodmare sire was the classic staying influence of Galileo. Incidentally Be Safe’s sister Beacon Lady who was by the 2000 Guineas winner and miler Haafhd was a high level handicapper over the Derby trip she won 6 of her 8 races over it. The next broodmare sire Sadlers Wells though a mile and a quarter horse himself has over a period of time become the world’s greatest source of classic stamina. A look at Oriental Lady’s Tattersalls page makes it clear that this French Wildenstein developed family is one laden with tons of stamina. http://docs.tattersalls.com/cat/december/mares/2010/2138.pdf. Breeding is a funny game and though many breed speed to speed and stamina to stamina, sometimes you get a genetic freak which is an ideal blend of both, this fellow possibly belongs to that category. His dam was an 8,000 Guineas buy at Tattersalls and that looks to be a real bargain indeed. He races evenly and Malesh Narredu has trained him impeccably. His rider, Malesh’s Nephew Suraj understands Be Safe extremely well, despite missing out on riding him in the Ruia because of a fall the previous day, cousin Neeraj Rawal was a very able stand in for what was a record breaking piss up. I feel he’ll stay alright and he holds this field on form by a lot. He’ll go off as a deserved odds on favourite.
Quasar (Seeking The Dia – Belle Jour by Smart Jones) Okay lets get his name pronounced correctly first, its pronounced “Kwayzaar” http://youtu.be/4S6L4EBnyzQ. Its not Kasar or Kooasir or whatever. This solid chestnut is yet another top got abroad runner from a sire who was a bona fide disaster. Seeking The Dia a son of Storm Cat raced in Japan and won the Japan Cup Dirt. He stood in Japan before being relocated to Hill N Dale Farm in Kentucky but after less than stellar results he now stands in Florida for a measly $3,500. His dam Belle Jour is a daughter of Smarty Jones who took two legs of the American Triple Crown but lost in the Belmont despite running a great race. Quasar belongs to a top American family and his great grandam Triple Tiara winner, Sky Beauty who was trained by Allen Jerkens was a dominant champ on the NYRA circuit and won the Eclipse Award as Champion 3 Year Old Filly. We needn’t discuss his Staying abilities as he has won his last two over the Derby trip as he won the Calcutta and Golconda Derbies. What is bound to go against him is that this will be his third race in a period of three weeks. He got a scare from Dare To Dream at Hyderabad and Tiger Tops tested him hard at Calcutta. Quasar is also trained by Malesh Narredu and defending champion YS Srinath who won on Alaindair last year takes over on him as Suraj rides Be Safe. You’ve got to respect a horse coming off a six race winning streak with three Group Ones among those.
Tiger Tops (Tiger Hill – Cockayne by Barathea) The Indian Oaks winner has been very consistent right through her career, rarely running a bad race. She was the runner up in the Calcutta Derby and was not disgraced in defeat behind Quasar, prior to that she won the Calcutta Oaks. Tiger Tops returned to her home centre the following week to hack up in the Indian Oaks. Shapoor Mistry bought a share in her and that makes Colm O Donoghue eligible to ride her as he did in the Oaks (really dumb rule by the TAI against every tenet of competition, where Foreign jocks can only ride for their retainers). Tiger Tops is yet another bred on the hugely successful Danehill – Sadlers Wells cross. Her German bred sire Tiger Hill a staying son of Danehill stood with Darley but has been relocated to his country of birth since. Her dam line too is classic and she goes back to the great Selene, best known in India as the family of super sire Everyday II, recently Group 1 winner Beauty Parlour has come from this family. Her trainer Pesi Shroff has had a tumultuous year, yet he has been performing very well despite that, finally beating Malesh’s 1000 Guineas winner Godspeed in the Oaks after a number of reverses at Malesh’s hands. She too runs her third race in three weeks and once again what effect that will have remains to be seen. Pertinent to mention here that a share in her was a great buy by Manjri Stud and she should nick very well with their stallion Phoenix Tower.
Bold Majesty (Multidimensional – Fond Fantasy by Razeen). Flying the conceived in India flag will be last Monday’s Bangalore Derby winner. His dam Fond Fantasy was a top racemare herself. Interestingly despite the whole hullabaloo about Got Abroads, the best broodmares in India are the ones that were top racemares over here. If one was to look at probabilities, this set of mares will produce graded winners at a very high frequency. All that apart this Ganapathy trained runner comes into the Derby off a three race win streak. Bred on the very successful Multidimensional -Razeen cross, where Razeen’s broodmare sire and Danehill’s broodmare sire His Majesty are Full brothers therefore there is a close up duplication of their dam Flower Bowl (another nicking theory thats been very successful). He stays alright but he too is being asked to return within a week of a strenuous run on very firm ground at Bangalore. His trainer has been woefully out of form and this horse has been the only really bright spark for him this year. David Allan who won the Indian Derby on Moonlight Romance takes over from A Sandesh who had committed to riding Illidan earlier.
These are the top contenders where Be Safe towers over them all and squarely holds this field on raceform, one must remember that horses more often than not make fools of humans and there is a reason its called RACING! Among the rest one could make a case for Oaks runner up Tatiana, PBM winner Shivalik Storm (the only horse to ever beat Be Safe), The General and maybe Illidan for whom I think this race comes a bit too early in his career; Storming Home, whom he beat last time out was subsequently soundly thrashed, as such he has a hell of a lot to find on form. Further despite being from an Aga Khan line which has produced numerous Stayers, his sire was a champ juvenile who never saw out a trip. Tatiana ran a very good race in the Oaks but was well beaten by Tiger Tops, she’ll stay alright but lacks the requisite class it appears. The General gave 5 Kg to Highlander a lost by only a length, Highlander subsequently won the Byculla Club Cup and will be Western India’s number one invitee for the Stayers’ Cup in March. The problem here is when he ran against Tiger Tops in the Calcutta Monsoon Derby he only saw her derrière disappear in the horizon. The balance are making up the numbers but think back to Noble Eagle, Super Storm, Pyare Miya and the like, its the Derby but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get a stunning upset.
If this race was run on the second Sunday of February it would be better, since it would give ample time for the Golconda and Bangalore Derby as well as the Oaks winner ample recovery time and then it truly would be the Indian Derby. Traditionalists might disagree but the Epsom Derby was moved from Wednesday to Saturday to keep up with the times. Be Safe is well positioned to win with the perfect lead up into the race which has been his primary target since the Bangalore Summer Derby. His main opponents along the way have been in a few more recent battles and that might tell on Derby Day, inversely when you have it easy it can make you a wee bit soft!