Bangalore's first 'Classic' of the summer season will be run on Sunday as the Fillies' Championship Stakes and it will be the 53rd renewal of this race. When the Portmarnock filly Rising Bell won the inaugural running in 1959, the race was called Bangalore Fillies' Trial Stakes and no one alluded to it as a 'Classic' but somewhere down the years it got tagged as one. Normally, changes of nomenclature are cosmetic tinkerings not appreciated by the purists but in this instance the Bangalore Turf Club has to be commended. For years, how a 'Trial' could be called a 'Classic' beggared comprehension so the new name of the race will at least remove that anomaly. In the circumstances, perhaps, Bangalore Turf Club Ltd will also address another conundrum. Bangalore Derby - run in the winter - and Derby Bangalore - the plum of the summer season - confound one and all and surely there is an easier way of differentiating them.
There are 37 fillies, including two final entries, still standing their ground and in the absence of a star of the calibre of Haunting Memories or Set Alight, to mention just two, it appears likely that the field will be a good-sized one. In the last ten years, there has been at least one black-type winning or an unbeaten filly in the contest. There won't be one this Sunday which is why the race looks intriguing and the favourite certainly won't be at cramped odds.
The two final entries - Dr. Vijay Mallya's African Queen and Samar Singh-trained Lovely Kiss - are certain to accept. African Queen (Burden Of Proof - Afrodita), a half-sister to Brown Sugar (Deccan Derby, Gr.1), Fleet Indian (Mysore Derby, Gr.1) and Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2 placed Arizza, came out of the maiden ranks with a smashing 11-length victory earlier in the summer to justify her being supplemented. Always highly regarded, she came to hand early and ran twice as a two-year-old, has never been unplaced in her five starts but had disappointed during the winter campaign by failing to get a winning bracket. Fitting of blinkers seems to have worked like a charm. A victory for her will please the votaries of the established, Indian Classic families for she traces to Stella Marina. The steady increase in the number of imported mares has taken the shine off the old Indian families and they can always do with a good bang now and then.
Lovely Kiss (Rebuttal - Raisin), like African Queen, has won impressively on her reappearance in the summer, winning by almost seven lengths. Earlier, she had won once and placed second once - nosing out African Queen - from two starts. A daughter of the promising Freshman Sire, the Mr. Greely horse Rebuttal, her unplaced dam is a half-sister to two black-type winners (both by Crafty Prospector) in U.S.A. There are similarities in the pedigrees of Crafty Prospector and Rebuttal. So far, Rebuttal has admirably demonstrated the precocity and speed which he is passing on to his produce. Lovely Kiss, the third highest rated filly in the field, will provide him with a splendid opportunity to show the class he can transmit.
Two fillies rated higher than Lovely Kiss are Black Magic Woman (Placerville - One Magic Moment) and Current Ray (Burden Of Proof - Current Bay). The former, an inmate of Cooji Katrak's yard, faced the starter much before any of her rivals did as she made her debut in Pune when finishing second to Class Apart. She has since won all her three starts including one during the current season. Like Lovely Kiss, Black Magic Woman, who is yet to race beyond 1,200 m., is by a Mr. Prospector line sire out of a Tirol mare. Her dam was speedy and smart but never won beyond 1,400 m. If she gets the trip, she is certain to be involved at the business end. Jaggy Dhariwal's ward Current Ray has won twice and placed from six starts. She is a full-sister to useful Chagal and Tanzanite and comes from a speedy family that has only an odd win over a mile in the immediate removes.
Trainer S. Padmanabhan could well be triple-handed in the event in case he accepts with Celebrity (Burden Of Proof - Littleover), Preordained (Choisir - Go Out Backwards) and Nearness Of You (Diffident - Forest Fantasy). Celebrity is a full-sister to Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 victress Camarioca and half-sister to Colour Bearer and Chimerique. Their dam Littleover not only won this race but went on to add the Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 and Indian Derby, Gr.1 to her tally. Boasting of equally illustrious relationship is Nearness Of You for her Placerville siblings are Spectacular Quest, Ruben Star and Change Of Luck, while her dam is the multi-Classic winning Forest Fantasy. Nearness Of You, who will come on for her run behind Arrow In Auto Mode, is the first Diffident foal out of Forest Fantasy.
Littleover and Forest Fantasy, of course, are well known in India. Padmanabhan's third likely runner is the got-abroad Preordained. She is by the fast Choisir from a family steeped in stamina. Her dam is a half-sister to Acceleration, a black-type winner over 2,100 m. in France. This is the immediate family in India of Dramatic Irony (winner of Northumberland Trophy over 3,200 m., the longest race in India), Aperitivo, Memories Of You and Secret Memory. Stamina for a mile essay won't be Preordained's problem but her temperament could be. She has dropped the rider on the last two occasions this summer and had to be withdrawn.
Ace Blood, Dancerella, Magnitude, Practicallyperfect, Show Time, At The Helm and Mad About You could be in the starting line-up and while they are all rated in the 40s and 50s, they know well that when it comes to big races, ratings don't matter as much as in handicaps. Less exposed horses, trained with a specific race in mind, can win even off lower marks. Last year, Siachen went into the race with a rating of 60 while the year before Jacqueline was on 65.
Poonawalla Group of Farms have bred 11 winners - one more than Usha Stud - of the race and hold an upper hand with Black Magic Woman, Nearness of You and Magnitude. For Usha Stud to draw level, the China Visit fillies At The Helm, Mad About You and, maybe, Romantique, will have to run out of their skins. There could be three to four Burden Of Proof fillies, too, in the race and rain will certainly boost their chances for, like Fairy King, his son Burden Of Proof appreciates a going in which there is some give.