Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd)
Another Saturday beckons with the 2000 Guineas carded at both Calcutta and Bangalore. Just a week ago, a similar arrangement promised two well contested 'matches' which never came to pass with Secrecy at Calcutta and Lovely Kiss at Bangalore forgetting their lines and allowing In The Spotlight and Southern Bay to romp home. The racing script rarely unfolds as anticipated or desired. This Saturday, there is a stand-out contender at each centre and the feeling is that both the contests are over bar the shouting. Certainly at Calcutta, in the absence of In The Spotlight, Dandified has a simple "jaana aur aana" task and it will be the upset of the year if the son Rebuttal is beaten. At Bangalore, Field Marshal, bidding for his third straight Classic, also towers over the likely field but the possibility exists that he may just have to exert a bit on the track to accomplish the hat-trick.
Dandified (Rebuttal - Dandoona) has won five of his six starts. He has not raced since winning the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.3 by over half a dozen lengths and was given a mock race last month. In his other track work, however, he has been tenderly handled. Is there something to be read in that? Is there some niggle which dictates that he is not over-stretched? He is rated 28 points superior to Royal Blue Star (Sunday Doubt - Razpazazz) and 38 to the good against Asian Rocket (Tejano - Asian Lady and thus a full-brother to Golconda 1000 Guineas winner Chilli Girl) and both these horses will carry the same Khaitan colours. He has beaten Raznandan (Razeen - Athabasca) thrice and Alienation (Sunday Doubt - Northern Frontier) twice. Of his other likely opponents, Secret Reward (Alnasr Alwasheek - Queen of Swords), a Bharath Singh-trained full-brother in blood to that excellent filly Icebreaker, has won his last two starts well and is clearly on the upgrade while Combined Operation (Black Cash - Crepusculaire) has only recently been relocated at Calcutta after racing earlier at Mumbai and Pune.
Of Dandified's two bracket-mates, one -- Royal Blue Star -- is trained by Vijay Singh and the other -- Asian Rocket -- is with Darius Byramji. The last four starts of Asian Rocket have been over 2000 m. and it indicates that he has more stamina than his full-sister. That being so, the mile trip will not be up his alley. Royal Blue Star was late in starting his career, his debut coming only in middle of October when he was given an easy outing and finished fourth. He has since won his two races over 1400 m. effortlessly. His pedigree -- his dam is a full-sister to Calcutta 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 victress Classic Sky -- suggests that he is better suited to the distance of the race.
Over in Bangalore, Field Marshal (Placerville - Shamaal) lords over the likely field but not as imperiously as Dandified. For one thing, the next best rated contender is not a stable-mate, is adrift by only 18 points and is a horse that scalped the probable favourite the only time they crossed swords. That horse is Hill Dioro (Black Cash - Eye View), trained by Irfan Ghatala and from the powerful Wadhawan string. Beaten by Ridgeway -- who it is learnt is headed for the Golconda 2000 Guineas -- on his debut in June, Hill Dioro beat Field Marshal by three-parts of a length the following month. Field Marshal has won his next three starts -- all at Mysore, it has to be said, including two Classics -- while Hill Dioro has won once and finished second once. That second was to none other than Speed Six who is Mahalakshmi-bound for a crack at Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1. Speed Six was always in command of the race and once that became obvious, Hill Dioro was not unduly pushed.
More than his beating Field Marshal earlier, the second to Speed Six gives rise to the belief that Hill Dioro can throw down the gauntlet. Equidae, Hill Dioro's Desert Style half-sister, was trained initially by Padmanabhan and was a useful sort so Field Marshal's schooler would have a good idea of the adversary's potential. Hill Dioro's grandam is a half-sister to the legendary Danehill.
There are two got-abroads -- Maddox and Star Marquess -- that can add a bit of spice to the race. Maddox was fifth in the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 won by Hills and Stars and Star Marquess occupied the same spot in Pronto Pronto's Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. Maddox (Holy Roman Emperor - Nojoom, a daughter of a half-sister to Oratorio) hasn't raced since and his preparation has been steady rather than eye-catching. Star Marquess (Intikhab - Mawaheb) had his lung-opener in open class against older horses, was given an easy race and again finished fifth. Since then he has been well stretched out in a mock race. Ta Rib, the grandam of Star Marquess, is a winner of Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Gr.1 as the French 1000 Guineas is known. So both these got-abroads have the requisite potential in their pedigrees. That potential hasn't yet been translated into performance though that does not imply that it cannot surface on any given day.
Lad King (Steinbeck - Roses in the Snow), Casanova (Burden of Proof - Cesandri) and Waikato (Imtiyaz - Aglow) are other horses that could be in the fray but it is unlikely that the field, as at Calcutta, would require a second unit of the starting stalls. Field Marshal has won his races from end to end. It remains to be seen whether the same tactics are employed again.
PAST THE POST
Some interesting (hopefully!) trivia about the two Classics:-
* Mr. Deepak Khaitan has won the race ten times and stands a good chance of making it a Sportsman's Dozen.
* Razeen has six previous winners while Usha Stud, where he stood, leads the Poonawalla Group 10-8.
* Vijay Singh needs one more winner to catch up with Haskell David's record of seven.
* Christopher Alford is well clear in Jockeys' Table with half a dozen winners.
* Aloritz's time of 1.38, clocked in 2000, is fastest on record.
* R.R. Byramji has won the race 13 times.
* Riyahi is the leading sire with four winners while Poonawalla Group leads Usha 9-8.
* Vasant Shinde is the leading jockey with six winners.
* Secret Memory won the race in 2006 clocking 1.36.6. That's a race record.
* One prominent name missing in the list of winning jockeys is that of M. Jagdish.