Maj. Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
The Indian 1000 Guineas and the Indian 2000 Guineas are both run over a mile, usually within a week of each other. While the former is restricted only to fillies, the latter race is open to both the sexes. Despite that, historically the Indian 2000 Guineas has a smaller average field. On the other hand, more favourites have won the Indian 2000 Guineas, the score being 30 - 26. The other three Indian Classics, however, have a better strike rate of favourites winning.
The Indian 2000 Guineas was not one among the inaugural three Classics run in 1942-43. It was added the following year along with the Indian St. Leger which was called the Governor-General's Cup in the initial years. The Indian 2000 Guineas, however, has the same number of winners as the three older Classics because it is the only Indian Classic in which there has been a dead-heat, the Judge being unable to separate Buland and Our Select in 1967 despite consulting a photograph. It is also the first Indian Classic in which an objection to the winner was successful, Spellbound being awarded the race in 1970 after finishing two lengths behind the winner Bright Hanover. And, last year's winner of the race -- Ocean and Beyond -- was stripped of the prize when his post-race samples were returned positive for a banned substance.
For all that, this is race which has showcased some brilliant horses running a blinding mile on the Mahalakshmi track. Horses like Her Majesty, Alijah, Prince Pradeep, Hard Held, Almanac, Camino, Enrico, Exhilaration,and Continual, to mention just a few. Won by fillies ten times and by "got-abroads" on six occasions, it is a race in which the progeny of Indian-bred stallions has really come to the fore. Ten sons and three daughters of Indian-bred stallions have won the race. Star of Gwalior was unplaced in the Indian 2000 Guineas but he won the other two Classics in 1956. His first crop son Loyal Manzar went one better and won the Indian Triple Crown in 1962. Loyal Manzar was a mediocre sire but he did beget Loyal Prince who won the race in 1969. Loyal Prince in turn sired the 1975 winner Sea Mist. The succession ends there because Sea Mist was never given a chance at stud.
Fourteen horses are still left-in for Sunday's race and it includes four got-abroads and sadly not a single progeny of an Indian-bred stallion. The eventual field may just about reach double figures. In a way that will ensure that there is no congestion as occurred around 400 m. marker in Alma Mater's race where open lanes were hard to find. The other major difference between the two races is that while there were several fillies with credentials that deserved respect, only two colts and two geldings need to be discussed. The similarity is that despite the smaller number, winner spotting is just as difficult.
Pronto Pronto (Major Impact - Sandslash) is top rated at 92 and he earns that pride of place on the strength of his summer double of Bangalore Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 and Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. Coming from behind in both the races with well timed runs, he got his head in front in the proximity of the winning post. He has not raced since then and neither did Romantique -- a close third in the latter race -- till taking part in the Indian 1000 Guineas. Both Pronto Pronto and Romantique are trained by Imtiaz Sait and their preparation has been on similar lines. Sidelined in the monsoons, they were slowly eased back and given easy, separate mock races last month where lesser horses finished ahead of them. Both have looked sharper in their subsequent work but Romantique's run in the first Classic was disappointing. So the question which springs up is whether Pronto Pronto is sufficiently tuned up for the big race. Only two trainers -- R.R. Byramji and A.L.J. Talib -- have saddled more winners of Indian Classics than Imtiaz Sait and one trusts that the veteran schooler would have Pronto Pronto at his best.
Speed Six (Burden of Proof - Six Speed), rated 87, was second to Pronto Pronto in the Bangalore Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.1. Speed Six's intended jockey N.T. Callow went AWOL on the eve of that race and whether a more experienced rider than P. Trevor who eventually rode him would have made a difference is a mute point. Speed Six then had a training setback and was compelled to an enforced rest. He was demonstrated that all is well with him by winning last month on reappearance. There is just a nose between him and Pronto Pronto and it needs to be added that his trainer has sent out Guineas winners at Calcutta and Bangalore so the stable is in rousing form. Six Speed herself won the Indian 1000 Guineas in the same colours that Anthony Crastus will be sporting atop her son. Two previous winners of Indian 1000 Guineas -- Roman Rose and Mystic Memory -- have produced Indian 2000 Guineas winners earlier in the shape of Multirosa and Mystical.
Next in the scale is Picasso (Black Cash - Allies Serenade), rated 78, whose string of four consecutive wins after an easy debut run includes a hat-trick of black type races comprising of Kunigal Stud Breeders' Produce Stakes, Gr.3, Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 and the F.D. Wadia Trophy, Gr.2. Since then, his stock has nose-dived a bit. Taken to Hyderabad for the DBA Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3, he was tame third as a favourite to local horses Super Duper and Vijay's Conquer, both whom had cut no ice during their summer campaign in Bangalore. He lost more friends when he appeared surly on the way to the start of Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 and got badly left. He did later catch up with the field and beat three horses but that's only academic. Morning work watchers are divided on his progress after having been gelded. He has had a mock race in which Alma Mater held him by a head without he himself or the filly being fully driven out.
Pesi Shroff, flush with his Indian 1000 Guineas victory, will be saddling Cardinal (Placerville - Haunting Beauty), rated 70 and a full-brother to dam of Speed Six. Cardinal started racing only in Pune and has three wins from four starts including the S.A. Poonawalla Multi-Million, Gr.2 over a mile. His only defeat came when he was second to Hills and Stars in the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 over a trip which was in excess of his ideal distance. Last month he won the Maharaja of Morvi Trophy which in truth was nothing more than a mock race for he had a solitary opponent, rated 30 points inferior, to dispose off and he did it without a fuss.
On pedigree, all four are evenly matched (Black Cash a bit of a question mark) and a mile suits them perfectly. Of the quartet, only Speed Six is unfamiliar with the Mahalakshmi track while the other three have won on it with Pronto Pronto being the only course and distance winner. Those present at Mahalakshmi will have the advantage of assessing at first hand the fitness of Pronto Pronto and Picasso. Of the others accepting, a couple may be earmarked as pacemakers, another brace or so may be just out for an outing and the only one which looks a dark 'un is the Bezan Chenoy-trained Knighton, a Razeen half-brother to that useful filly Astral Flash. He has raced only twice in Pune, both times over a mile and won once after being second on his debut. He has been working well. Inexperienced he certainly is but then Alma Mater won last Sunday having had just two previous starts.
PAST THE POST
Cardinal will be losing some supporters who believe in the hoodoo of the Maharaja of Morvi Trophy. Superstition is hard to explain but it exists. In the case of the Morvi, however, it is not based on facts. The very first Morvi Cup was won in 1953 by a horse called Commoner who went on to become the first winner of the Indian Triple Crown ! Another Indian Triple Crown winner, the fabled Prince Pradeep, had also won the Morvi. Five winners of the Indian Derby or the Invitation Cup -- Fair Wood, Loyal Prince, Manitou, Forest Fantasy and Jacqueline -- have the Morvi on their CVs. Ten other Morvi winners -- Flying Red, Sun-Deep, Multirosa, Buland, Hard Held, Heliantha, Highland Rule, Enrico, Flaming Star and Set Alight -- went on to win an Indian Classic. So is the Morvi a hoodoo or a just a hullabaloo ? Cardinal will be carrying the Jacqueline colours so we know that at least the Shirkes don't believe in the hoodoo.