Dr Vijay Mallya, Mr Zeyn Mirza leading Smashing (Anthony Crastus Up), winner of The Zoom Indian Oaks Gr-I
Smashing (Holy Roman Emperor – Exquisite) shrugged off her Guineas defeat and re-discovered her Pune magic dazzle to outlast and outshine her rivals in the Zoom Indian Oaks (Grade 1) with a mind-boggling stretch-run. Smashing, who had won back to back races on her debut campaign in Pune, had not been her usual self on the Mahalaxmi track so far. Even her victory on her first outing this season was lacklustre; the authority and sparkle that she had shown in Pune was completely missing as she laboured to beat an average horse like Esmeraldo in a class III race!
Her Guineas attempt was a dampener, to put it mildly, as she failed to even figure in the judge’s frame, although only just. However, that did not deter her connections and she was assigned the Zoom Indian Oaks (Grade 1). Smashing was taking on Alma Mater and Botswana, the very fillies who had beaten her in the Guineas among others that included Volterra an impressive debut winner who had caught the attention and was being touted as filly with a promising future. But this was another day, another race and over a distance that would test the best.
Smashing went to the post at 6/1 while Alma Mater was the firm favourite at 6/4 and Volterra commanding more following than Smashing at 9/2.
The race started on a sedate note with Gossip moderating the pace initially before Swift Memories took charge from the top of the backstretch. Volterra braved to be well up with the pace, Botswana in the mid-bunch, Smashing closer to the rear and the big player, Alma Mater had only Capriole behind her. That was more or less the order of running until the turn. While taking the curve, Smashing made her first positive move as her jockey Anthony Crastus alerted her to the task and started to bridge the gap to the front-bunch. Alma Mater too made headway and was right behind Smashing as the heads turned for home.
Volterra progressed to lead them in as Swift Memories bowed out and Neath switched to the outside to stay in contention. Volterra moved closer to the inner rails, at the same juncture, Neath shifted out and Crastus, who was now close behind them, could not expect a more cordial invitation! He surged through the generous gap between the two and caught up with Volterra past the 300 m mark. Smashing then unleashed a superb show of acceleration and flew past Volterra. There, it was all over. None could match up to that brilliance and Smashing sailed away to an authoritative victory that was pleasing to the eye. She was back to her brilliant best and over the extended trip too! She displayed an impressive blend of dazzling speed and ample stamina. Alma Mater ran on to finish second and Volterra a creditable third. Neath did well to finish in the frame and will surely take some pluses from this race.
Young Frenchman, Jockey Anthony Crastus could not wait to join the lead-in party waiting for him. I caught him mid-way on the track and delayed that meeting to get the first reactions just as both Smashing and Crastus were calming down from the over-heated aftermath of a landmark conquest. “First of all, I must thank Dr Mallya, Mr Mirza and Mr Shroff for the opportunity. This is my first Indian Classic and a moment to relish. Smashing was a pleasure to ride today. She settled beautifully from the beginning and right through the backstretch she seemed totally relaxed, just going about her motions effortlessly. I just let her do her thing as she felt good and in rhythm. When I pressed on her for an increase in momentum approaching the final turn, the response I got was tremendous. I knew it then that she would only increase her momentum from here on. I saw she was ready for the final surge and when I let her go, boy she flew. She has great final acceleration and she is special. She stays the trip well as you have seen now and yes, I am optimistic about her chances in the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby,” he said before rushing off avoiding any further question. But he had answered them all in one go.
Dr Vijay Mallya was overwhelmed and after giving away so many trophies as a sponsor, it was about time he received one. On the Indian Classic scene, it’s been a while since Set Alight won him the Guineas in 2008/9. He was not present when Siachen won her Guineas, so for Dr Mallya this was overdue. “We were hesitant to run Smashing in the Oaks as she gave an impression that she preferred the shorter distance. I must mention here that my friend Mohit Lalvani convinced me that her bloodline traces to staying abilities coming from her older generation line. He was persistent, so I thought there was no harm in taking a chance and I am glad it paid off. I now have the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby to look forward to and I think Smashing has just raised the bar.”
The Zoom Indian Oaks, then, was not a close affair as expected. Smashing demolished the opposition and was all by herself in the final furlong. Alma Mater tired her best with Richard Hughes getting her to give her all. Volterra was a pleasing third and will mature into a fine filly. Complementing the ladies’ day - as the Oaks day is dedicated to the ‘better halves,’ - a certain Ms Koval Agarwal won the Maruti Car Alto K10 that was up for grabs for nominating the first four placing correctly in the big race. Since there were no correct entries for the first four, the RWITC in a liberal gesture, approved to pick the lucky draw anyway, for the 12 players who had nominated the first three placing right.
The Zoom Indian Oaks has provided yet another strong Derby aspirant in Smashing. It is confirmed that Smashing gets into the fray with a final entry fee of about Rs 900,000/- boosting the stakes which now may breach a whopping Rs 2.6 crore mark. With Hills and Stars and In The Spotlight raring to go, the fillies are pushing themselves into the reckoning for the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby (Gr 1) Crown on the first Sunday of February (5th Feb). The Boys, read Pronto Pronto, Picasso and company better watch out, for, as in the human case, they too might be left chasing the girls!