Maj. Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Southern Bay, who seemed to have this race at her mercy, has 'defected'. Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's filly worked well yesterday so presumably all is hunky dory with her but she is not in the list of acceptances. The obvious inference is that the stable feels it can get the job done with its second string - Forever Glory - and is aiming Southern Bay for either the Golconda or the Indian Derby.
The stable's confidence in Forever Glory (Alnasr Alwasheek - Forever Elegance) is not entirely misplaced because she is the only one of the eleven still left-in who has a win over the trip. That came in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 where she got up to beat Practicallyperfect (Sunday Doubt - Sterling Prospect) - a final entry here - in the closing stages of the race and win by a neck. A mere neck would ordinarily not be a cause for great optimism but the fact is that it was the first time the filly was going over a distance which her pedigree demanded and she put back middling form to triumph in a Classic. At the same time, Practicallyperfect's connections will feel that the verdict can be reserved and which is why they have shelled out a hefty final entry fee.
There are three other fillies taking their chance. One is Lad Lady (Razeen - Tarnished Lady), the other Nearness of You (Diffident - Forest Fantasy) and Gold Venture who is the obvious pacemaker for Forever Glory. Southern Bay dismissed the first two named contemptuously in the Bangalore Oaks but both will feel more confident against Forever Glory. Nearness of You will come on after her front running effort last time out and if ridden more conservatively could show an improvement. On current ratings, there is very little between Forever Glory, Practicallyperfect and Lad Lady.
Maddox (Holy Roman Emperor - Nojoom) isn't too far behind the three top fillies, either. Field Marshal beat Southern Bay by three-parts of a length in the Poonawalla Mysore Derby, Gr.1 and accounted for by a length and a quarter in the Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. On those two verdicts, there isn't much between the queen bee and the colt. Star Marquess, who was third in the latter race, has overturned the verdict in the Ruia in Mumbai. The stylish victory of his paternal half-sister Smashing in the Zoom Indian Oaks, Gr.1 must buoy the Maddox camp especially as the colt has a superior dam line. His damsire Alhaarth was a top class miler whose progeny stays upto 2000 m; the next damsire, Muhtarram, excelled over 2000 m. and that's average winning distance of his progeny; and then we have Vaguely Noble who is a noted stamina influence. So all in all, Maddox has a pedigree which suggests that he should get the distance.
There are two unbeaten colts - Toroloco and Zultanite - who have been sparingly raced, winners of two starts that each of them has had. Their sires, Rebuttal and Midtown respectively, are similar in many aspects. This is the first crop of both and both have shown that they are capable of getting precocious, consistent and genuine performers. Their pedigrees and performance, however, do not presage Classic success beyond a mile. Dandified's capitulation in the Ever Ready Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 was the first confirmation that Rebuttals are not (and frankly, they are not meant to be) mile and a half horses. By Sunday, there should be further proof of that unless Toroloco and Pedalo at Hyderabad win. It appears unlikely.
Horses travel to Hyderabad in search of riches and glory. It is rare for a Hyderabad horse to venture out and trainer Leo D'Silva needs to be commended for bringing over Golden Rule (Placerville - Orient Dance). On his last start, Golden Rule was a length and a quarter shy of Pedalo in the Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. He won on his debut as a two year-old in November 2010 but hasn't earned a winning bracket in thirteen subsequent starts and has never raced beyond a mile so far. He has the best rating among the colts but it is hard to see him finishing ahead of Maddox. I Specialist and Absolut Grey complete the line-up and are the two lowest rated contenders.
Three fillies (Forever Glory, Practicallyperfect and Lad Lady) and two colts (Golden Rule and Maddox) are covered, on ratings, in a tight band of about eight points. That's four lengths over a mile and a half. Southern Bay's absence may have opened up the race but it has also muddled the overall picture. In such a scenario, it may be preferable to side with Forever Glory who has the requisite class and stamina in her pedigree. Afterall, her dam won this very race in the same colours seven years ago.
It has to be said, though, that the overall quality of the field is poor. Whichever four horses get their number put up in the frame, their average rating will be in lower 80s. That, for a Derby, is simply not good enough. And whoever wins the race, you can be sure that winner will never be talked of with same awe and reverence that some of the earlier winners of this race - horses like Own Opinion, Everynsky, Cordon Bleu and Saddle Up, to mention just four - evoke even today. The race was instituted in 1974 and the Kunigal-bred Prince Ardent was the first to have his name scrolled on the Roll of Honour. It was then called The Arc de Triomphe, a misnomer if ever there was one because that race is a weight-for-age event while a Derby is always restricted to just one crop. The anomaly was corrected in 1989, the name was changed to The Bagpiper Bangalore Derby and Parfait Amour won it that year.
Past The Post
And, finally, some stats which may be of interest to some:-
* Cordon Bleu, mentioned above, came into this race having won the Bangalore Oaks with a time of 2.45.3 which is the slowest for that race. The grey filly was evidently not happy to be associated with such a dubious feat and quickly put the matters right by winning the Derby in 2.32. Her Bangalore Derby time has not been bettered till today. What's more, she broke the existing Indian Derby record on her next start !
* Vasant Shinde with seven wins heads the table for leading jockeys.
* R.R. Byramji has saddled 11 winners of the race but trainer S. Ganapathy has a unique record to his name having schooled five consecutive winners.
* Razeen is the leading sire with five wins.
* Poonawalla Farms lead Usha Stud 9-8.
* Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy has a neat dozen victories in his colours.
* Amathos (1996) and Royal Russian (2002) were half-brothers, both being out of the Ballo mare Natashka.
* Six got-abroads have won the race.
* In the last ten runnings, five favourites have won.