The first Bangalore St. Leger was run in 1974 and was won by Nectar Queen. Nectar Queen is quite unique in that she was by an Indian Derby winner in Prince Pradeep out of Rocklie, also an Indian Derby winner. That race, like the next 17 renewals, was run towards the fag end of Bangalore's Winter Season. It was only in 1992 that it was shifted to the Summer Season. Star Contender was the last winter winner of the race while Classic Style started the ball rolling in the summer.
Nectar Queen was trained by Rashid Byramji and the ace trainer sent out as many as nine winners in the first dozen years. The three years that Byramji failed to win the race, Aris David stepped in with the Ramaswamy trio of Half A Crown, Own Opinion and Aristocrat. Byramji, of course, has dominated most of the big races in the country but none as completely as the Bangalore St. Leger having saddled 18 of the 37 winners. RRB's stranglehold on the race has meant that it was one of his jockeys, Vasant Shinde, who holds the top position amongst the jockeys with nine winners.
A race over 2,800 m. coming towards the end of the season - whether the Winter or the Summer - finds it hard to draw a large field and the number is yet to go into double figures. In fact, nine runners have gone to the post only twice when Appeaser (2001) and Own Vision (2004) were victorious.
Horses who are vastly superior to their contemporaries win over any distance whatever the pace of the race. Early crawl in no way inconvenienced three of the very best Indian-breds. Their winning times - Own Opinion (3.34.4), Squanderer (3.24) and Mystical (3.18.12) - are the the slowest recorded. The got-abroad filly Salute Her has the distinction of clocking 2.58 in 1997 and it remains the fastest St. Leger at Bangalore.
Thirteen fillies have so far won the Bangalore St. Leger and the portents are that China Visit's daughter Xisca will become the fourteenth by winning this year. A winner of seven races, including the Deccan Derby (Gr.1) and the Calcutta Derby (Gr.1), she is rated way above her likely rivals. Like almost all of them - barring possibly Sunlight - Xisca will be tackling the distance for the first time. Her grandam, Hornet's Nest, came to Usha Stud in 1981 and her clan has generally been more speedy than stout. Two good mile and a half winners to descend from her are the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) winner Simply Supreme and Altimara, the dam of Xisca, who, like her daughter won the Calcutta Derby (Gr.1). Ambuscade, the dam of Hornet's Nest, was a half-sister to Little Wolf (Ascot Gold Cup, Gr.1) and Smuggler (Yorkshire Cup, Gr.2), so there is enough stamina in the tail-female line. (Paradoxically, their unraced half-sister Sanctuary was to produce the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Gr.1 winner Sheikh Albadou!) That, allied to her far superior class, justifies the belief Xisca will become the first descendent of Hornet's Nest to win beyond 2.400 m.
There are no stamina doubts about Ordained One who is a full-brother to the Indian St. Leger (Gr.1) winner Noble Prince and Star Angel who won the Calcutta Oaks (Gr.3). They are very closely related to another Indian St. Leger winner in Protege. In the Maharaja's Cup earlier this month, Xisca finished six and a quarter lengths ahead of Ordained One. She is better off by three 3 kgs in the St. Leger while Ordained One gets 600 m. more to make up almost a distance. Ordained One had beaten Xisca in the Chief Justice's Cup (Gr.3), but the filly had come out the better at the weights they carried. The improvement shown by Xisca between the Chief Justice's Cup and the Maharaja's Cup was eye-catching!
Sunlight has not won in her last six starts. A second to Ocean and Beyond in the Pune Derby (Gr.1), and to Moonlight Romance in the Indian Oaks (Gr.1) boosted her stock but she missed the board in the Indian Derby (Gr.1). Subsequently, though fancied, she ran poorly in the Stayers' Cup (Gr.1) and C.N. Wadia Gold Cup (Gr.2). She hasn't had a race for four months and if she chooses to participate, being fresh could be a plus point while the lack of a prep race could be seen as a handicap. A full-sister to the recent Derby third Romantique, her dam Romantic Liaison won the Indian Oaks (Gr.1) and is a three-parts sister to Indictment whose victory in the Indian St. Leger sealed his Triple Crown.
After winning the Bangalore Oaks (Gr.2), Balmoral Castle ventured to Malakpet where she was beaten only a head by Business Tycoon in the Golconda Derby (Gr.1). Ordained One finished third in that race, just a short-head behind Balmoral Castle. However, the Spartacus filly failed to catch the eye in her two subsequent black-type essays in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) and recently in the Maharaja's Cup (Gr. 2). Her sire, who started his stud innings at Coolmore, is now in New Zealand. The best of Spartacus's northern hemisphere 'gets', All The Aces, was a comfortable winner over 2,400 m. and there is stamina as well as French class in the bottom half of Balmoral Castle's pedigree.
Unleashed ran the best race of her career when just a length shy of Sun Kingdom in the Bangalore Derby (Gr.1). She hasn't quite franked that form since. Maharaja's Cup running leaves her and Berlusconi with plenty to find not only on Xisca but Ordained One as well.
It is difficult to envisage any other worthwhile contestant. It is even harder to oppose Xisca in a race in which the favourites have had the upper hand.