The Hyderabad Fillies' Trial Stakes - as well as the Colts' version - was an even greater conundrum than its Bangalore counterparts. How a non-graded race and a 'Trial' at that was always considered a 'Classic', defied logic. Last year, both the races were admitted to the Pattern and granted the black-type status and this year, following Bangalore's lead, the race has been re-christened as 'Fillies' Champion Stakes'. So rather than harping on the previous inadequacies, it is time to say "never too late to make amends" and move on.
The first Hyderabad Fillies' Trial Stakes was run in 1974 and Regency won the race. Hyderabad did not race during the winter in those days and so there was no concept of "local" and "raider" which germinated after Malakpet saw winter racing for the first time in 1979-80. Since then, the "raiders" have definitely have had an upper hand, winning 25 races against the 6 to the credit of the "local" fillies. Nine winners of this race - Queen of the Hills, Chaitanya Ratham, Classic Style, Dynamic Dancer, Divine Dreams, Fond Fantasy, Ray of Light, Touch of Silver and Own Vision - have subsequently won a winter Derby. From 1985 onwards, the Deccan Bookmakers' Association has sponsored the race giving it the honour of longest association with one particular event in India. (McDowell has been sponsoring the Indian Derby since 1985, but during the last couple of years it’s being called McDowell Signature Indian Derby)
The gold-brown belt stable has most noticeably been off the boil in the big races of late but it does pick up its share of lesser contests. Trainer Ganapathy is likely send two Alnasr Alwasheek fillies - Magnitude and Forever Glory - in a bid to bring Dr. M.A.M. Ramswamy's score in the race to a round dozen. The latter, who is out of Stayers' Cup (Group 1) winner Forever Elegance, is bred to be an Oaks filly in the winter. She has, however, finished ahead of Magnitude in both the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes (Gr.1) and the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore (Gr.1). In between those two races, Magnitude, giving weight to St. Catz, ran a fair second. That thread of form looks trustworthy as St. Catz was later narrowly beaten in the Nanoli Stud Bangalore Summer Million (Gr.3) by In The Spotlight who herself was second to Magnitude's stable companion Southern Bay on Mysore's opening day. Another point in favour of Magnitude, who is rated higher than Forever Glory, is that when she last won a race, she had the beating of Severstahl.
One trainer with an astute eye for opportunities near and far is S. Padmanabhan. Following the "Have horse; will travel" philosophy has paid him rich dividends because he has saddled more Classic winners at Malakpet than anywhere else. In The Spotlight is obviously being campaigned in Mysore while Preordained and Nearness of You - both in the frame in the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes (Gr.1) - appear to have been salted and put away for the Winter. He will probably foray to Malakpet with Touching The Town (Midtown - Thats The Touch, who was second in the Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2). A runaway winner on debut, she was quickly taken to Mumbai for the HDIL Entertainment Million at Invitation Cup weekend and failed by only a short-head to land the spoils. She was fourth behind St. Catz and Magnitude in the race referred to above and won her last start where Forever Glory, getting 2 kgs, was about three lengths behind her. Another Bangalore "raider" is Chantilly (Batzushka - Chantenay) who was impressive when she won her maiden but a touch disappointing the next time out. The sojourn of the Bangalore contingent is, of course, subject to their getting out of the blockade which the syces are said to be imposing.
Western India trainers are generally apt to fight shy of travelling. Pesi Shroff is an exception to that generalisation but he doesn't have a filly "ready" at the moment for Malakpet.
The outstation "raid party" this year is respectable but not formidable. Especially as the locals have a filly who is unbeaten after four starts which include two black-type races. That filly is Windsor Manor (Placerville - Amber Windsor). She just about scrambled home on her debut as a two year-old and then won the Pratap Stud Darley Arabian Stakes (Gr.3) and the Kr. Rajendra Singh Golconda Juvenile Million (Gr.3) comfortably to complete the hat-trick. Rested thereafter and not taken to Bangalore, she returned to the fray during the current season to win her fourth race. The winning margin may have been just three fourths of a length but that can be put down to rustiness and the run is certain to have brought her on.
Like Windsor Manor, Surya Lakshmi (Burden of Proof - Indian Endeavour) made a narrow winning debut at two (where Notre Dame was third), ran just thrice during the Hyderabad Winter season, won a black-type race – the VIF Godolphin Barb Million (Gr.3) by 8 lengths, didn't venture to Bangalore and has had a run this term. She was almost six lengths behind Windsor Manor in the Darley Arabian Stakes and failed to give 5 kgs to Notre Dame on her reappearance, though it is likely that she was just being "given a run". Notre Dame has boosted the form by winning again but having to make up six lengths on Windsor Manor is a tough ask. The daughter of Burden of Proof has been further sharpened by a mock race on Monday.
The Team Mallya will be double handed with Crown Crystal (Tejano - Crown Secret) sporting the second colours to Chantilly. The chestnut filly veered out soon after the start on her debut and was beaten only a short-head by her stable companion. She was the runner-up on the second of her two starts in Bangalore and broke her duck in the opening race of the current season.
Two got-abroad fillies have won the race in the last four years and there is one - Anacostia (Clodovil - Almost Perfect) - who could be facing the Starter on Sunday. She failed to win from three starts at Malakpet during the winter but won twice from an equal number in Bangalore. In her warm-up on the Independence Day, she was second to Vijay's Conquer. In one of her Bangalore wins, she beat Klipspringer by almost two lengths. Klipspringer was beaten a neck later by Aegis (Royal Kingdom - Adventure). Aegis, another likely starter, won by a distance back at Malakpet earlier this month. Lightly raced Rajkumari is a Rebuttal half-sister to Vijay Damini. She has had just two starts, winning on debut in the winter season and running second to Castle Town last month. Castle Town, in fact, is a good yardstick having run close to Magnitude, Anacostia, Touching The Town and Rajkumari.
After two seconds - first to Arrow In Auto Mode and then to Super Duper - as a two-year-old, Bloody Mary (Mr.Mellon - Cats Concert) won the Smt. Teegala Sulochana Reddy Byerley Turk Million (Gr.3). She failed to hit the board in her next four starts but finished second to Cristiano earlier this month and could take her chance on Sunday. Indeed, as can several of the other fillies who are still left-in but the principal contenders have been discussed here.
One final note. Windsor Manor's dam Amber Windsor won all the five South India Classics in her year for Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy who gifted her to Poonawalla Farms during the 2004 Invitation Cup Week-end function. Her two earlier foals were both by Placerville. Acridian won a couple of races while Imperialista never raced. Windsor Manor has made up for that and goes unbeaten into the race and with the highest rating. Her trainer, M. Satyanarayana, will be keeping his fingers crossed and hoping that the filly provides him with his first Classic winner.