The stage is set for a battle royale as two of the finest four-year-olds take to the Calcutta track on Sunday to establish who is the ‘First Among Equals’. As it so happens, it is also a ‘Battle Of Sexes’ as the premier filly and the leading colt of this centre clash for the season’s piece de resistance which carries a winner’s purse of approximately Rs 60 Lakh – The Eveready Calcutta Derby Stakes. Despite eight runners in the starting line-up, the final furlong is likely to witness a do-or-die battle between a very special colt and an equally special filly.
Taking the cue ‘ladies first’, let us discuss the filly In The Spotlight who already has a classic double to her name at this centre - not to mention the Deccan Derby at Hyderabad during the monsoon. The Padmanabhan trained youngster by Alnasr Alwasheek out of Radiate won both classics here by running forward races. The excellent timings that the prized property of Captain Jamshed Appoo recorded in both cases appear to give her an edge as the Calcutta straight is rather short and the front-runner holds an inherent advantage. Jockey Martin Dwyer will probably try to hug the rails as the field swings into the straight, if not before – after all he went start-to-finish atop the filly in the mile-and-half race for the Oaks. She might enjoy leading the ‘boys’ on a merry chase over an identical distance.
However, there is one very special ‘boy’ called Dandified, who may not want to be dominated by a member of the fair sex. Sired by Rebuttal out of Dandoona, Dandified has done all that was expected of him – and a little more – that too without being stretched. The last three words ‘without being stretched’ are key words in his curriculum vitae. The spearhead of the ‘red-and-gold-brigade’ of Mr Deepak Khaitan won the Monsoon Derby in a common canter and thereafter the Calcutta 2000 Guineas and Calcutta Gold Cup far easier than verdict. His advantage lies in the fact that he is tuned to the ‘T’ and is an extremely intelligent sort who seems to realize exactly what is expected of him.
Where Christopher Alford has to be careful is to ensure that he doesn’t get blocked anywhere at the top of the straight and further, he should not allow too much of leeway to the filly – after all she is no mean customer herself. The shrewd tactician that Dwyer is, he will try his utmost to give the colt the slip. It is up to Christopher to ensure that he is not caught flat-footed. He will be astride a brilliant colt with lightning quick acceleration and being an experienced champion jockey, he ought to get the best out of him. No doubt, his stablemates and pacemakers (Danube Valley and Royal Blue Star) will aid him in his quest by disturbing the free-running In The Spotlight as much as possible early in the race. Alford must time his run to perfection to collar her before the post.
It will be a duel unto death and worth travelling miles to see! So ensure your presence at the RCTC on Sunday where history is likely to be scripted.