Sunday the 10th July will see the 50th renewal of Derby Bangalore - sponsored by Kingfisher since 1988 - and if there has been any trumpeting by authorities to highlight the historic occasion, it has been muted at best. Mount Everest, the very first winner of the race in 1962 when it was called the Kunigal Derby and run over a mile, went on to annexe the inaugural Indian Turf Invitation Cup. In subsequent years, the race has lived up to its reputation of unveiling the future stars and is arguably one of the best three races in the country. Thirty four Derby Bangalore winners have gone on to win Classics in the winter and as many as 16 have won either the Indian Derby or the Invitation Cup to cement its importance in the Indian racing calendar.
Although a reliable pointer to winter Classics over a trip, the Derby Bangalore has been won on occasions by top-class milers like the Mudlark Galilee (who got his favourite soft going in the Colts' Trial as well as the Derby), Mauritius Pearl, Camino, Camineto, Snow Dew, Bourbon King and Aboline, while Red Cockade and Six Speed finished as runners-up. The start is right opposite the stands and the first bend comes even as the field is scrambling for positions. By the time they have sorted themselves out, they are at the 1,400 m. marker and from there to the final bend there is a steady descent. It is a much easier 2,000 m. than at Mahalakshmi.
Most of the likely runners in this year's field look cast in the miler mould while of the four that have staying pedigrees - Star Marquess, Forever Glory, At The Helm and Lad King - the last three named have a fair bit to find on form. So, in the absence of a contender possessing the right amount of class and stamina - on paper at least - the field could be larger than the previous average of 11.
In its 49 runnings so far, the Derby Bangalore has been won 23 times - 15 colts and 8 fillies - by earlier winners of the Trials held in June. It's coincidence this year that Lovely Kiss and Pronto Pronto who won the Fillies' and Colts' races were not in original entries and will face the Starter only if the connections put them in as final entries. Lovely Kiss, a daughter of the Freshman Sire sensation Rebuttal, won her race more comfortably than Pronto Pronto and is rated higher. Rebuttal has done everything - and much more - so far than could have been expected or hoped for. A son of Mr. Greely, he won his maiden at 1,200 m. in England and later posted a victory over a mile when sent to U.S.A. His pedigree does not suggest that he would have been comfortable over much longer. Mr. Greely himself and his two other sire sons - El Corredor and Reel Buddy, banished to Greece after a short stint in England - have not had many good winners beyond a mile. Lovely Kiss and her paternal half-brother Tiberius have respectable damlines and their chances cannot be ruled out in a field largely devoid of staying propensity.
Pronto Pronto caught Speed Six in the last stride in the Colts' race. He is by the Roberto horse Major Impact who stood in U.S.A. before coming to Manjri Stud. He has been a good sire of sprinter-milers but his son Diabolical - out of a mare who won all her six races at 1,000 m - stunned one and all by winning the Golconda and Indian Derbys and later the Queen Elizabeth Cup. Speed Six is by Burden of Proof who has sired two previous winners of Derby Bangalore - Fantabulous King in 2004 and Aboline in 2009 - while his dam is that quicksilver sprinter-miler Six Speed. Haunting Beauty, the grand-dam of Speed Six, a winner of five races in England up to 1,300 m. came to India in 1995. Beautiful Ballad, the grand-dam of Pronto Pronto, won her only race in England over 1,000 m. and arrived two years later. So far, the produce of these two mares and their daughters has won 57 races in India but not a single one them has been beyond a mile!
Pronto Pronto and Speed Six have a damning statistical evidence to set right. Pronto Pronto, of course, has one interesting fact in his favour. His fourth dam Ruta is the third dam of three previous winners - full-brothers Smart Chieftan, Classical Act and Southern Empire - of Derby Bangalore. Siblings have really excelled in this race. First there was the full-brother and sister pair of Camino and Camineto who won in consecutive years. Full-sisters Divine Light and Ministrella won with a gap of just one year and then came Santorini Star and Snow Dew who were sisters-in-blood.
Only two got-abroads - Flirting Vision in 1991 and Supervite in 1998 - have been successful here, whereas we could have four in the fray this year. Super Duper (Keltos - Supercal) is by a Champion Miler out of a well-performed mare who won only up to 1,400 m. Super Duper is a half-brother to three winners abroad, two of whom have won beyond a mile in equivalent of our Class VB and later were sent hurdling. Vijay Keerti (Aussie Rules - Cielo Vodkamartini), like Super Duper trained by L.V.R. Deshmukh, is by a Classic Miler. His dam visited top Coolmore stallion Montjeu twice and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Barathea once. The three foals that resulted are winners over hurdles. Preordained (Choisir - Go Out Backwards), withdrawn twice after unshipping her rider, was on her better behaviour on the Fillies' Championship day and ran a decent third to Lovely Kiss. Her dam, by the Epsom Derby winner Dr. Devious, is a half-sister Prix Corrida, Gr.3 victress Acceleration and from the immediate family in India of Aperitivo (Stayers' Cup, Gr.1) and Secret Memory (Pune Derby, Gr.1), both by Diffident. There is plenty of stamina in the dam line. The average winning distance of the produce of the brilliant sprinter Choisir is under a mile and it remains to be seen which side of her pedigree Preordained takes after.
Star Marquess (Intikhab - Mawaheb) is very much - like Severstahl - a horse about whom there is much conjecture. He is by a versatile stallion whose best get, Snow Fairy, is a Gr.1 winner in four countries from 2,000 m. to 2,400 m. and includes the Oaks in England and Ireland. His dam, running in the colours of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, made her debut at 3 over 2,200 m. and duly posted a win. She placed twice at even longer distances from her four other starts. Star Marquess's Key of Luck half-brother Mush Mir has been a useful sort winning four races from 2,400 m. to 3,200 m. Their grand-dam is Ta Rib, a daughter of Mr. Prospector who won the French 1000 Guineas. In fact, Star Marquess is balanced inbred - like Becket - 4x3 to the erstwhile Claiborne stalwart and that can sometimes lead to excessive brilliance.
No maiden has won this race and so Saratoga Spring, a full-brother to Sprinters' Cup (Gr.1) winner Attila, will not only be trying to win his first race but create history in the bargain. He was a close third to Tiberius and Preordained in the Heeroji Lad Bangalore Juvenile Million (Gr.3) during the winter season and interestingly, made his debut over a mile prior to that.
That leaves two the two Diffidents - Severstahl and Nearness of You - to ponder over. Diffident is essentially a 'speed' stallion but he has sired the Stayers' Cup (Gr.1) winner Aperitivo, the Pune Derby (Gr.1) victor Secret Memory and Bourbon King, a previous winner of this race. Severstahl is bred on a pedigree pattern similar to that of Aperitivo, Secret Memory, Oasis Star, Aboline and the Epsom Derby winner Workforce, to mention just a few. Nearness of You is a half-sister to three black-type winners, all by Placerville, in Spectacular Quest - who started as the favourite for this race in his year but could finish only fifth, Ruben Star and Leave It To Me. Spectacular Quest and Ruben Star were milers but Leave It To Me won the Indian St. Leger (Gr.1). Trained by Padmanabhan, one would expect Nearness of You to win a Classic somewhere along the way but her ideal distance remains a matter of uncertainty at this stage.
In last 15 years, Razeen has provided a record six winners of the race while Placerville came up with three. Both these great stallions died earlier in February and it seems probable that they may not be represented in this year's renewal. Aided by Razeen's half-a-dozen, Usha Stud has the honour of topping the list with 13 winners with Grey Gaston contributing four, Treasure Leaf two and China Visit being responsible for Moonlight Romance last year.
Nine favourites have been successful in the last 25 runnings. The average of 36% is not drastically at variance with the overall success rate of public fancies.