Mr. Samar Singh Shekawat handing over the trophy of The Kingfisher Bangalore Derby to be run on 10th July, 2011 to The Chairman of BTC
The unveiling of the beautiful Kingfisher Bangalore Derby 2011 trophy took place in the paddock during the running of the local races last Sunday. The UB Group officially handed over this trophy to DM Kumaraswamy, the Chairman and Senior Steward of The Bangalore Turf Club. A number of memories came flashing back as one watched this ceremony. The dead-heat between Skyline and Mauritius Pearl in 1974 and the all-apprentice Derby in 1977 were still vivid in our minds. The first-ever running of the Kingfisher Bangalore Derby in 1988 had been quite eventful. Treasure Girl, Nine Carats and Lucky Shrike had come charging down the straight and were almost abreast at the wire. In the absence of digital technology those days, the judge had taken an exceptionally long time to separate the three of them. The 24th edition of the stellar event is going to be the richest ever in the history of Indian Racing. The UB Group's contribution, in addition to the extraordinary sums being paid by final entrants, has ensured a sizable amount of over Rs 1.40 Crore to the winner. The "House-Full" sign hangs over this year's Derby. With the Bangalore track unable to accommodate more than 18 runners, a few non-performed horses have been eliminated from Sunday's contest. This is in amazing contrast to the first edition of this race held 50 years ago, wherein the winner took home a princely sum of Rs 25,570. This year's victor will pocket more than 500 times that amount.
The Classic Scene at Bangalore has been quite consistent this year. Three-year-olds that were rated prominently at the end of winter have lived up to the expectations of their respective connections. Imtiaz Sait's Pronto Pronto headed this group when the official ratings were announced by the handicapper at The Bangalore Turf Club. The fact that he won The Colts Championship in his very first start on the local track, speaks volumes about his abilities. Padmanabhan's Speed Six occupied the highest position amongst those that had won a solitary start. His progress has been visible throughout this season. Tiberius is the only one who has disappointed his fans. The Irfan Ghatala-trainee has shown a steady decline in his form and run poorly in the company of the above-mentioned horses. Amongst the colts and geldings, Severstahl and Star Marquess have shown phenomenal improvement. The pair of them was the fastest moving runners in the final stages of the second Classic of the season. Samar Singh's Lovely Kiss and Padmanabhan's pair of Preordained and Nearness Of You will lead the fillies challenge. Lovely Kiss has done everything that has been asked of her, and she looks like a formidable contender in this year's Kingfisher Derby. It is still premature to gauge her true potential as she keeps improving with each run. Nearness Of You covered a lot of ground to come charging from the back in The Fillies Championship, and she is bound to relish the extra distance in the "Big Race" on Sunday. With Chris Hayes arriving to partner Speed Six, Srinath continuing his association with Pronto Pronto and Suraj Narredu returning from USA to jump astride Lovely Kiss, the race has the makings of a real pot-boiler. Incidentally, the connections of Lovely Kiss, Pronto Pronto and Severstahl have paid an exceptionally high fee of Rs 16 lakh each to enter the fray.
Speed Six, Lovely Kiss and Pronto Pronto are likely to corner most of the betting. Those amongst the punters who felt that a stronger rider on Speed Six would have definitely beaten Pronto Pronto in The Colts Championship, will back this runner on Sunday. The colt loves to race freely and there are hardly any doubts about his stamina. He is sure to start as a marginal favourite in this open betting event. With every single runner tackling the mile and a quarter for the first time in their short careers, and "luck" playing a major role in such a large group of horses, the bookmakers are sure to take their chances. A brief synopsis of the past performances and current form of some of the prominent runners is given below.
Speed Six (Burden Of Proof-Six Speed): This nice looking colt made a fine impression while winning his maiden start by a "distance" at Bangalore. His style of winning, as well as the timing that he clocked in the said race, augured well for the future. His next start at the beginning of the Summer Season was in a "million" event, where he was slated to meet the highly regarded Amadeus. Speed Six made use of his handicap advantage and made every post a winning one. He showed that he was fairly comfortable over an extended trip. The connections were unable to find a quick replacement for Noel Callow on the eve of The Colts Championship, and entrusted him to a relatively inexperienced Trevor. The youngster rode a neat race but was unable to finish it powerfully. With Chris Hayes coming down specially to ride him, Speed Six is sure to garner the maximum support, and in my opinion, will be the horse to beat in The Kingfisher Bangalore Derby 2011.
Pronto Pronto (Major Impact-Sandslash): After some brilliant performances at Mahalakshmi, Pronto Pronto was brought to Bangalore. He was accorded the pride of place as being the highest rated three-year-old at this centre. He had shown his ability to tackle a mile by giving weight and a beating to some well-regarded horses in Western India. Imtiaz Sait tested him in a barrier trial a few weeks prior to the Colts Championship, and came into that race without the benefit of an actual race run. Pronto Pronto ran a blinder and got up on the last stride to beat Speed Six at the wire. He is sure to benefit from that experience, and consequently, figure prominently at the finish this Sunday. Srinath continues his partnership with this runner.
Lovely Kiss (Rebuttal-Raisin): This modest looking filly possesses some terrific qualities. She is blessed with both speed and stamina. The manner in which she had charged out of her widest draw in The Fillies Championship, run prominently throughout the back-stretch and outpaced her opponents in the final furlong, was commendable. She has done everything asked of her thus far. Her timing over a mile was fractionally more than that clocked by Pronto Pronto and Speed Six, but then, her victory was much easier. After his return from Arlington Park, Suraj Narredu has seized an opportunity to partner this filly. The only doubt that lingers in one's mind is her ability to tackle the distance. In a fast run race, would the free-striding Lovely Kiss manage to withstand the challenge from her late-rushing adversaries? We will have to wait till Sunday to get an answer.
Severstahl (Diffident-Suave Star): This Dominic-trainee was the fastest finishing runner in The Colts Championship. Despite an accident near the halfway marker, Severstahl had made up a lot of ground in the straight. Because of a lost shoe and a bleeding hoof, he had hung-out under pressure. The connections waited for him to recover from these disabilities and tested him on the track before making a final decision. His brilliant work enthused them to pay the hefty fee to allow him to come into this race as a final entrant. After a few starts in winter, Severstahl began his summer campaign with a brilliant performance. Running against a group of milers in Class III, he clocked a top-class timing. The not-so-perfect underfoot conditions that day made little difference to him. Considering that only a length separated him from Pronto Pronto and Speed Six in their previous clash, Severstahl shapes as a good outsider in this race.
Star Marquess (Intikhab-Mawaheb): The nice-looking got-abroad colt from Ganapathy's stable was another late finisher, who came from the tail end of the field to occupy the fourth spot. He was caught behind a wall of horses and Gallagher had little option but to swing the widest into the straight. Picking up a group of tired runners, Star Marquess had shown a lot of promise in that race. He may race more prominently this time. Right from the beginning of his career, Star Marquess has shown that he likes it longer. He will get a great opportunity to test his skills against a group of talented three-year-olds in the Derby.
This year's Kingfisher Bangalore Derby promises to be a real exciting affair. With a string of closely matched contenders vying for this trophy, it is difficult to predict a clear winner.