Classics in India for any crop are spread over two years. The 3YO Classics -- trials, really, for the Winter Classics -- start high up in Udhagamandlam in April and finish with the Mysore Derby in October. There is not much of a break before the Winter Classics begin. The same crop runs the Guineas as 3YOs and then come Oaks and the Derby after the new calendars are up on the walls. The St Legers follow at liesurely intervals -- Chennai runs it in February, Kolkata in March, Bangalore in July, Pune in September (assuming that this year's schedule will hold good for some years atleast) and Hyderabad in October. The Winter Classics kick off with the Golconda 1000 Guineas in November and Malakpet also has the privilege of bringing down the curtain with the Golconda St. Leger.
Historically, Deccan was always the land for plunder and pillage. The Mughals and the Marathas regularly took away the riches. And, in these times, the Golconda Classics are a bounty that raiders cast their avaricious eye on. None more so than the Golconda St. Leger, the spoils of which they have been carried away in 27 of the 31 runnings. The last locally based horse to win the Golconda St. Leger was the filly Rave Review in 1994. For a race which is open to fillies, the fair sex has done extremely well, winning almost half -- 15 to be precise -- the renewals. Got-abroads, too, have done well with six of them winning. The race, coming at the end of a long season, generally sees a small field -- 5 is the average -- and it was only last year that it went into double figures for the first time. In 1982, there was a match. Far from lacking in spectacle, the two-horse race provided good entertainment. The Indian Triple Crown and Invitation Cup winner Almanac had gone down in quest of the bounty and was opposed by the local hero Big Deal, seeking to make the Golconda Triple Crown his own. Big Deal, the strapping chestnut, led from the word go while Robin Corner on the favourite bided his time. Corner made his move in the last 100 m. and won cosily by three-parts of a length. That wasn't the end of it, though. Jockey D. Tyrrell objected against Almanac to prolong the tale. However, there was no twist in it and objection was overruled.
Coming to this year's renewal, it is pertinent to go back to the Vijay Textiles Golconda Derby, Gr. 1 run on 30 January. The result of that race reads -- 1. BUSINESS TYCOON 2. Balmoral Castle 3. Ordained One 4. Vijay Monarch 5. Camacho. Verdict -- Hd, Shd, 1 1/2 l, Hd. The winner, Business Tycoon, ventured to Mahalakshmi for the HDIL Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 in March. He broke down during the race and was put down. The four runners behind him in the Golconda Derby are still hale -- if not hearty -- and in training. Those four are likely to be the principal contestants this Sunday. The quartet finished close together and will be running at exactly the same weights.
The previous good record of fillies and got-abroads will be heartening for the connections of Balmoral Castle (Spartacus - High Five). In January, this Padmanabhan-schooled filly was on the top of her game having won the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 on the New Year's Day and then running second in the Golconda Derby. Since then, however, she has not hit the board in the three black-type races she has participated in. Her last run was in Bangalore in the Governor's Cup, Gr.3 on 12 August. The stable is in cracking form, several horses from it are regularly out on track but Balmoral Castle has not been sighted. For a filly who had lost her way, a more strenuous preparation may have been indicated .On the other hand, her trainer is a past master at reviving horses and obviously knows what is best. She has won an Oaks and lost a Derby by a short-head on this very track and there is plenty of stamina in her damline. Her sire Spartacus, began his career at Coolmore but is now in New Zealand. A leading first crop sire in New Zealand, he has some staying types to his credit like Ballybit and Spartanicus. If back to her best, Balmoral Castle has to be very much there. However, in absence of race course confirmation of that well being, it is worthwhile to look at others.
If Balmoral Castle was at her peak in January, Ordained One (Placerville - Amazing Princess) was at his very best in August-September, bagging the Nizam's Cup, Gr.3-President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1 double. While the filly excelled on the Winter track, trainer Ganapathy's ward shone on the Monsoon track over which the St. Leger will be run. He has had nine starts this year -- one almost every month -- and it is to be hoped that it has not affected his zest for racing. During the Bangalore Summer season he won the Chief Justice Cup,Gr.3 over 1800 m. beating Xisca but Shroff's filly turned the tables completlely in the longer Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2 and the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2. Ordained One was taken to Pune within a week of the President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1 to participate in the Casino Royale Indian St. Leger, Gr.1. He ran a lacklustre race and was well beaten by Macchupicchu, another Shroff runner. He has had a rest of three weeks and now runs in his third St. Leger ! A full-brother to Indian St. Leger winner Noble Prince and closely related to another one in Protege, stamina is not the doubt. It is 'freshness'. There is also the question of whether he has another Shroff-trained runner waiting in ambush or will he be lucky the third time ?
The answer to that question is a 'yes' and a 'no'. There is a Shroff runner -- Camacho -- but he will be saddled by Hosidar Daji. Owned by Dr. Vijay Mallya, Camacho (Razeen - Gourgandine) is a winner of five races, four of them over 2400 m., the last two being registered within a week of each other. He is a full-brother to Allied Forces (Castrol Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2), Perceived Value (Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2) and Cambiasso who was narrowly beaten in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Gr.3 over the St. Leger distance. He is certain to appreciate the step up in the distance. He is rated below Ordained One and Vijay Monarch but above Balmoral Castle. In Malakpet, he will team-up with two other Mallya runners -- Allez Vite and Camorra -- coming from Bangalore and a successful implementation of 'team tactics' will certainly help his cause.
After the Golconda Derby, Vijay Monarch (Diffident - Post Impressionist) went to Mumbai with the ill-fated Business Tycoon for the Invitation Cup. He finished ahead of Balmoral Castle. His last start was in the Presdient of India Gold Cup, Gr.1 where Ordained One was a good six lengths in front. A winner of four races, Vijay Monarch is yet to win beyond 2000 m. whereas Balmoral Castle, Ordained One and Camacho have all posted victories over 2400 m. Although essentially a sprinter-miler and a sire of speedier sorts, Diffident has a Stayers' Cup winner -- Aperitivo -- to his credit. There is stamina -- but sadly no class -- in Vijay Monarch's immediate tail-female line. His dam's two wins in England came over 2400 m. and 3200 m. The wins, however, were in very poor company. She has two winners to her credit in England and both of them won over hurdles. As such, it is difficult to see him bridging the six-length gap with Ordained One.
A 'refreshed' Ordained One -- he, too, is likely to have pacemaker -- can end up third-time-lucky. If Camacho -- the least experienced of the four when they contested the Golconda Derby -- has improved since his last two wins, he will emulate his full-sister Perceived Value. Interestingly, Placerville and Razeen have both sired three previous winners of the race while the stud farms at which they stood -- Poonawallas and Usha -- are also tied with seven winners each. There would have been a tie between Ganapathy and Padmanabhan among the current trainers -- the Great Mughal Rashid Byramji is way ahead with seven winners -- at four apiece but Royal Gladiator, earlier with Padmanabhan, was saddled in the Golconda St. Leger by Vinayak. Paddock looks and presence are always a key parameter. More so as the season draws to a close.