The Calcutta 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 and the Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 are both down for a decision on Saturday with the former being run just a little before the latter. Both are likely to have small fields and both appear, at this stage, to be straight contests between two principals. Anyone who has closely followed the running of the 2008 crop would certainly have noticed how one form line -- almost to the exclusion of all others -- has held the sway in the major events. That form line will once again be in the focus on Saturday.
Central to that form line is the Royal Kingdom filly St Catz. The filly made her debut early in February, was not given a punishing race and finished a promising fourth, just over three lengths behind the winner. The winner was Pronto Pronto who went on to bag the Bangalore Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 and Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. St Catz shed her maiden tag the following month with an almost two length victory over Hills and Stars, a daughter of Razeen and a facile subsequent winner of the Pune Derby, Gr.1. Taken to Bangalore, St Catz won easily in June and then lined up for the Nanoli Stud Bangalore Summer Million, Gr.3 on the last day of July. St. Catz looked a winner all over till a moment of idling saw In The Spotlight -- receiving 3 kgs. -- surprising her on the post. In The Spotlight then twice ran second to Southern Bay in Mysore -- in the Khushro K. Jalnawalla Mysore Million, Gr.3 and the K.R.H.O.A. Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 -- before winning the Deccan Derby, Gr.1 by five lengths from Surya Lakshmi, a winner since of the Golconda 1000 Guineas, Gr.2. Southern Bay herself took on Field Marshal in the Poonawalla Mysore Derby, Gr.1, engaged the Padmanabhan-trained runner in a bit of a dog-fight and lost nothing in finishing a close and respectable second.
In The Spotlight (Alnasr Alwasheek - Radiate) at Calcutta and Southern Bay (Placerville - Priceless Glory) will both be in action on Saturday. Trainer Padmanabhan is possibly the most enterprising of ’travellers’ though it has to be said that Calcutta is not one of his favourite haunts.(He doesn't have a Classic winner to his name at Calcutta). When he has a 'serious' horse, he usually heads west to Mahalakshmi, ignoring the easier pickings elsewhere. A couple of years back, he took Icebreaker to Mumbai in Set Alight's year and allowed Abs Fabs to waltz away with Eveready Calcutta Derby, Gr.1. So it is intriguing as to why In The Spotlight is targeting the Calcutta Classics this time around and seeking an early encounter with Dandified. Before that clash with the Rebuttal colt takes place, however, is the Saturday's race to consider.
Going purely by the established form line, In the Spotlight looks the proverbial 'good thing'. She is rated 89 against the 86 that Secrecy -- the best local filly -- has against her name. Just a length, one might say but then the Calcutta ratings, like Mysore ratings, cannot be taken prima facie till confirmed by collateral lines of form. When there is an apparent 'good thing' it is always prudent to peruse the 'cons'. This is were In the Spotlight comes up a bit short. Firstly, she has travelled to a new centre and hasn't raced for over 50 days. Admittedly, she has been regularly sighted in the morning work. In fact, so regularly that there could be a danger of her leaving her best form on the track. Most importantly, she is coming back to a mile after having won over 2000 m. and that, for a filly bred to stay, can be a disadvantage against a better miler.
On pedigree, Mr. D. Khaitan's Secrecy (China Visit - Glorious Colours) is better suited to a mile. Glorious Colours did win the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 in heavy going but the family has more speed than stamina. China Visit may have sired some staying horses but his progeny takes after the aptitude of the dam, so this Vijay Singh-trained filly looks more of a miler and hasn't done much wrong so far. A winner of four of her seven starts, all at Calcutta -- she is also likely to be the only course and distance runner in the field --, she has won over 2000 m. but was well beaten by Dandified in the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.3 over the same distance.
Two In One (Royal Gladiator - Arrikara) is another filly who has raced exclusively at Calcutta and her five starts have brought her three wins over 1400 m. -- including one in Calcutta Fillies' Trial Stakes -- and two seconds. Javed Khan trained Two In One for Mr. Ajay Jalan and a mile will not inconvenience her though it is fair say that In the Spotlight and Secrecy are perhaps of a more exalted class than the opposition she has raced against so far. Manhattan Rain is still a maiden after five starts at Calcutta. Oakdale (China Visit - Adesina) has won twice from her eight starts at Calcutta including once during the current term. Of all the China Visit fillies, she is the one best suited for a mile race on pedigree; her current rating, however, is far too low to be enthusiastic about her chance.
The other fillies likely to be in the fray all started out at Bangalore and have relocated to Hastings at different times. Darius Byramji could be represented by Mad About You (China Visit -Ithica) and Secret Visit (China Visit - Secret Garden, a winning full-sister to Amber Regent, Star Hopeful and Strelitzia and a three-parts sister to Calcutta Triple Crown winner King's Academy) who, like Secrecy, is owned by Mr. D. Khaitan. Both these fillies -- as also Manhattan Rain -- have been scalped by Two In One earlier and it is hard to envisage a reversal of placings, especially as the two daughters of China Visit are more suited to an Oaks trip. The last to reach Calcutta is Panamera after a win in Bangalore and another at Mysore in her last two starts. She is full-sister to Sans Pareil who won the Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3 two years ago. That race represents a better opportunity for her especially as by the time it comes around, she would be more settled in her new environment.
A win for either In The Spotlight or Secrecy will ring no alarm bells and both will have their share of supporters. Two In One winning wouldn't be totally out of turn, either.
At Bangalore, the picture is clearer. It's simply Southern Bay against Lovely Kiss. When the two fillies last clashed in K.R.H.O.A. Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3, Southern Bay finished five lengths ahead of Lovely Kiss. There was an excuse for Lovely Kiss in that she was rather hurriedly pitched into the race and it was almost two months since her previous run in the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. Southern Bay, on the other hand, upheld that form with a gallant second in Poonawalla Mysore Derby, Gr.1. Southern Bay hasn't raced after that while Lovely Kiss has won her warm-up over 1200 m. by nearly five lengths.
Lovely Kiss is today rated 98 while Southern Bay is on 85. That's the fallacy of the system for how you can beat a horse by five lengths and still be rated 13 points inferior! It is sure to confound one and all. Leaving aside the ratings, in simple racing terms the question which needs to be answered is how does Lovely Kiss reverse a verdict of five lengths. If she is to do that, one has to presume that Lovely Kiss was not herself in their last encounter. Then, assume that she will be going into the race much sharper. Southern Bay, of course, is not bred to be a miler and that factor is definitely in favour of Samar Singh's filly. Will Lovely Kiss and Southern Bay divide the support more equitably than In the Spotlight and Secrecy? An intriguing and interesting question.
Nearness of You (Diffident - Forest Fantasy) has the pedigree and her run in the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 was promising. However, having rested during the monsoons, she was a well-beaten seventh on her reappearance and on that run cannot be considered to have a winning chance. Her stable-mate Celebrity (Burden of Proof - Littleover) is equally bred in the purple. She was disappointingly down the field on her last start in Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1. She has had a mock race and is said to run best when fresh but bare facts would suggest that she will be running to earn some black-type and stakes.
Two fillies have three wins from their last four starts with an unplaced effort in the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 spoiling the sequence. They are Dancerella (Sunday Doubt - One Uttama) whom Arjun Magalorkar trains for Mr. D. Khaitan and Irfan Ghatala's Show Time (Midtown - Slim Twist). The versatile Dancerella has won over 1400 m., 2000 m., and 1600 m. whereas Show Time's all three wins have been over 1200 m. indicating that she is more of a sprinter than a miler.
Small fields do not necessarily take away the excitement and anticipation so long as there is a keen contest in the offing. On Saturday evening, in retrospect, it may look different. Till then, however, there is much to look forward to.
PAST THE POST
Some interesting trivia about the two races:-
* Christopher Alford has ridden five of the last ten winners of the Calcutta 1000 Guineas and is the all-time leading jockey of the race.
* Darius R. Byramji's seven winners of Calcutta 1000 Guineas places him on top of the Trainers' Table -- one more than Haskell David.
* Usha Stud has bred 13 winners of Calcutta 1000 Guineas -- two more than the Poonawalla Group.
* Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy and Mr. D. Khaitan have each won the Calcutta 1000 Guineas seven times.
* Only once in its entire history has the field for Calcutta 1000 Guineas gone into double figures.
* In the last 26 runnings, only one chestnut filly has won the Calcutta 1000 Guineas. This statistic is greatly at divergence with the normal distribution pattern.
* R.W. Alford and P. Shroff have ridden as well as trained winners of the Calcutta 1000 Guineas.
* The fastest ever Bangalore 1000 Guineas was run last year when Siachen stopped the clock at 1.35.95.
* Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy has won the Bangalore 1000 Guineas 14 times.
* Poonawalla Group leads Usha Stud 9-7 as far as winners of Bangalore 1000 Guineas are concerned.
* Vasant Shinde rode his fifth -- and last -- winner of Bangalore 1000 Guineas in 1992. His record still stands.
* Trainer S. Ganapathy needs one more winner of Bangalore 1000 Guineas to match R.R. Byramji's record tally of seven.
* Razeen has sired more winners of the Bangalore 1000 Guineas than any other stallion.