It was only in the 1980s that Kolkata's Monsoon Season received a boost with the introduction of two significant races the Calcutta Fillies' Trial Stakes and the Calcutta Trial Stakes, both over 1400 m, with the latter being open to fillies as well as colts. In 1994, the Calcutta Monsoon Derby was added to bring the prospectus in line with the Bangalore's Summer Season and the monsoon meetings at Mysore and Hyderabad. There was another change as well with the Calcutta Trial being reframed as Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes. Too Hot To Touch won both the new races that year. For some years in between, the Calcutta Monsoon Derby was run as Calcutta Derby Trial Stakes though, of late, it has reverted back to its earlier nomenclature. Last year, when Alice Springs was the winner, the race was a Graded event. There have been 17 running from Too Hot To Touch to Alice Springs but a Monsoon Derby winner is yet to win the Calcutta Derby in January.
A small field is expected to line up on Saturday and it is very much on the cards that most of them will be sporting the gold-red belt jacket of Mr. Deepak Khaitan. The race appears to be at the mercy of the anticipated Khaitan Quartet. Three of them -- Dandified, Secrecy and Aerator -- will be saddled by Vijay Singh while Secret Visit is trained by Darius Byramji.
Dandified (Rebuttal - Dandoona) was the first horse to draw attention to his young sire by registering an unbeaten hat-trick in the winter season. It is so important for first season sires to get off to a good a start and Dandified could not have provided a better launching of Rebuttal's innings. A lightly raced son of Mr. Greely, trainer Brian Meehan sent Rebuttal out from Manton just four times as a 2YO. He won once, over 1200 m. and placed in the Middle Park Stakes, Gr.1 as well the Mill Reef Stakes, Gr.2. Rebuttal had only one start at 3 in England before crossing the Atlantic. He raced four times in U.S.A. as a 4YO, registering a win over a mile and placing once. He took up his stallion duties at Hazara Stud in the Shivalik foothills in 2007. Dandified is a member of his first crop.
Dandified was beaten on his first start during the current Monsoon season but bounced back with an effortless, six and a half lengths win over Welcome Smile in the Calcutta Colts' Trial Stakes. At 83, he will be highest rated participant on Saturday. The doubt regarding Dandified is his ability to get the 2000 m. trip. Rebuttal is a son of Mr. Greely and most of that sire's produce are really comfortable around a mile. Thus far, Rebuttal hasn't had a winner over 2000 m. The ability to stay doesn't come from the sire alone and in the case of Dandified his dam ought to provide enough stamina to enable him to get 2000 m. Dandoona, covered by Iron Mask, was imported by Nanoli Stud. She was barren to her covering abroad and again to Royal Kingdom the following year. Banished from Nanoli, Dandoona moved north for a visit to Sussex, failing once again to conceive. Dandified is her first foal. Dandoona's attraction to Nanoli was that she belongs to the same strips of the Black Ray family as Cut of the Cloth, the dam of Zurbaran and Artois. So Dandified could well get 2000 m. but till he actually does so there is as much hope as certainty.
There is no such doubt about two other Khaitan standard bearers, the China Visit fillies Secrecy (out of the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore winner Glorious Colours) and Secret Visit (out of Secret Garden, a full-sister to Amber Regent, Star Hopeful, Strelitzia and half sister to King's Academy). In fact, the first named has already won over the distance on her last start by a seven lengths plus margin. A line through the consistent Shershah, however, gives a healthy edge to Dandified around a mile. A day after Secrecy's last start win Secret Visit, who is trained by Darius Byramji, won over 1800 m. by three and a half lengths. The other probable Khaitan runner is Aerator (Oath - Liquid Gold). This colt, whose sire is the only Epsom Derby winner to stand in India, had reeled off three wins by mid-January but has since lost his way somewhat. He finished seventh in Dandified's Colts' Trial Stakes and could be the pacemaker on Saturday.
The two non-Khaitan runners being mentioned as likely starters are Dr. Vijay Mallya's Shroff-trained Amor Amor (Razeen - Grand Passion) and Arti Doctor's trainee Welcome Smile, though the latter will need to be supplemented. Amor Amor was a short-neck second to Two In One in the Fillies' Trial Stakes. The Fillies' Trial Stakes and the Colts' Trial Stakes were consecutive races at Kolkata on 10 September and the facile winner Dandified clocked a fractionally faster time than the all-out Amor Amor. Being by Razeen, Amor Amor naturally commands respect and as her black-type dam was a winner over 2000 m., distance won't be a concern. A line through Two In One gives a distinct advantage to Amor Amor over Secret Visit.
Like Secrecy and Secret Visit, Welcome Smile is by China Visit. China Visit has had a wonderful year with the likes of Moonlight Romance, Xisca and Attila but barring Romantique (third in Pronto Pronto's Kingfisher Derby Bangalore), he has so far not had any notable 3YOs. While Secrecy and Secret Visit will get the 2000 m. trip, Welcome Smile (out of Stream of Love) is most unlikely to do so. Stream of Love's three earlier foals -- Thundering Hooves and Elusive Speed by China Visit and Moongate Man by Steinbeck -- have won 14 races between them not one of which has been in excess of 1200 m. As a sire, China Visit goes with the aptitude of the dam. From speedy mares, he produces speedy stock. To staying mares, he throws progeny with stamina. Welcome Smile's dam was unplaced and the family is generally a short running one, brilliant upto a mile.
In racing and breeding, there are no certainties which is why words like "generally", "probably", "likely" and so on have to be employed. It's a question of percentages. Arti Doctor has trained Welcome Smile's full-brother Thundering Hooves to win seven races and the lady is perhaps uncertain about the colt getting distance. That could well be the reason for the hesitancy in supplementing him into the big race. Even assuming that he gets the trip, six lengths plus to make up on Dandified is a trifle too much.
The considerable rating advantage that he enjoys may just about enable Dandified to land the big prize. There is no doubt that the fillies Amor Amor and Secrecy will test his stamina resources. Even more certain is the fact that the Khaitan camp, far from being embarrassed by the riches, is in the happy position of keeping its aces close to the chest.