Maj. Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
In warfare, numbers count for nothing unless the conflict is long-drawn and attritional. Otherwise, sophisticated weaponry always prevails. This is very much pertinent to Vijay Textiles Golconda Derby, Gr.1 to be run at Malakpet on Sunday where five raiders - three from Bangalore and two from Mumbai - will attempt to breach the defences of a ten-strong local force and hoist the winning flag.
The big guns in the attacking contingent are both fillies - Dr. Ramaswamy's Southern Bay and Volterra owned by the Shirkes - who will converge on the Golconda citadel from different directions. Southern Bay (Alnasr Alwasheek - Priceless Glory) has won four of her last five starts, all black-type events, quite comfortably though she has - presumably - been stripped of her K.R.O.A. Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3. In two of them, she beat In The Spotlight - who has swept all before her at Kolkata - while her only defeat, a narrow one at that, was at the hands Field Marshal in the Poonawalla Mysore Derby, Gr.1. She has won over the distance - a credit which no other contender in the field can boast of -, is the highest rated and has the best pedigree credentials. Add to that the fact her shrewd stable has switched her at the very last moment. Surprise is one of the immutable principles of war. If she has travelled well, she will hold all her rivals at bay.
Volterra (Razeen - Averoff), on her second lifetime start, was a creditable third in the Zoom Indian Oaks, Gr.1 just last Sunday. And now, within a week she is being asked to travel and run in a Derby on her third start. Talk of being thrown in at the deep-end! Such caprice is most unlike her trainer Pesi Shroff. She certainly justified his decision to run her in the Indian Oaks and may likewise run a good race here but chances of her toppling Southern Bay are slim. In the Oaks, she fought for her head early on before settling down. The pace was slow and had she been seasoned enough, perhaps her jockey would have taken her to the front and made the running. Then again, may be not because Indian jockeys as a rule - Khade, Jagdish and Shinde excepted - are not particularly adept at riding from the front. She did grab the lead early in the straight but lacked the finishing pace and still finished well ahead of better rated fillies like Botswana and Romantique. She has the stamina but this is not one of Usha Stud's elite families and on the scanty evidence available so far, fluent changing of gears may not be her forte. Running two Gr.1 races within a week with travel thrown in between is a tough task which is why Southern Bay, whose grandam Stunning is one of the all-time great broodmares in Indian history, should get better of her.
The other three raiders are Ridgeway - who ran badly in the Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 , Arabian Gold and Sledgehammer. The last two named are rated 60 and 49 respectively. Barring Danny and Vijays Jet, all other eight local challengers are rated at least seven lengths superior. Which of those eight is likely to throw down the gauntlet to Southern Bay and Volterra?
Highest rated of those are the Golconda 1000 Guineas winner Surya Lakshmi and the Golconda 2000 Guineas victor Pedalo, both on the 90 mark, ten points below Southern Bay. Surya Lakshmi showed her stamina limitations in the Golconda Oaks where she was a good eight lengths behind Forever Glory. She is a game filly, but not meant for this distance and unlikely to trouble Southern Bay who has always been higher in the stable pecking order over Forever Glory. Pedalo (Rebuttal - Palladio) is unbeaten after three starts and his dam line has stamina in the immediate removes and class further back. However, after Dandified at Kolkata, it might be prudent to be wary of Rebuttals over the Derby distance. Indeed, some Rebuttal, some day, will win a good race over the trip. Rest assured, though, that it won't be happening often.
Just as Rebuttal needs to first prove his ability to get a Classic horse over the Derby distance, so does Midtown and that, therefore, rules out a winning chance for Castle Town (Midtown - Canaletto), a most consistent and game horse, asked to take on classier rivals with better stamina potential. It applies to Vijays Conquer (Placerville - Queen To Conquer) as well. In his case there are no questions about his sire but it is his dam line that is speedy. In any case, there are four contenders from the 'Vijay Brigade' and it is hard to fathom what their respective roles are.
The pick of that brigade - on all counts; not just the rating - is Vijayshaurya (Trade Fair - Troppa Freska). In a recent race at Hyderabad over 2200 m., Vijayshaurya beat Swiss Don (Don Micheletto - Swiss Maid) by a length when in receipt of a kg. That makes Vijayshaurya and Swiss Don about level but there is a grave concern about that race being a pointer for the Derby. Vijayshaurya clocked a time of 2.27.32 for 2200 m. The last few Golconda Derbys have run in an average time of around 2.32 so he will have to cover the extra 200 m. in about 5 seconds. That's impossible. Obviously, that race was run at a false pace. Both, Vijayshaurya and Swiss Don, have decent enough pedigrees though, in a true run mile and a half Swiss Don may just have the nod. Vijayshaurya's dam, a winner of seven races in Italy and Listed placed, is a half-sister to Royal Gladiator and Glensanda, both black-type type winners in India and both excelling at 2400 m. and beyond. However, his sire Trade Fair, was only a Gr.3 winner over 1400 m. In his first four crops he failed to sire a black-type horse when standing in England, was exported and is currently in Western Australia. There is stamina in Swiss Don's family, his grandam being a half-sister to grandam of Forever Glory. A good run from Dr. Ramaswamy's filly in the Bangalore Derby will enhance his chances.
That leaves just two local fillies - Nasheeta and Vijay Keerti to talk about. In their last start, they raced against each other and the weights and verdict suggests that they are about equal. They could get the trip but need to find a lot on form. If the 'Vijay Brigade' has a pacemaker or two earmarked, it will make for a true run race and not cause Southern Bay and Volterra to rue the fact they haven't got a bracket-mate to do it for them.
Past The Post
As always, some facts and stats about the Golconda Derby:-
* Coming as it does just before the Indian Derby, a winner of the Golconda Derby has insufficient time to have a tilt in Mumbai. Some have attempted it but only one has been successful in bagging the double. That's Diabolical in 2007.
* Nine fillies have won the race in 32 runnings.
* Arabian Prince won the race in 2010 with a time of 2.28.07 which is the fastest recorded.
* Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy has won the Golconda Derby 10 times.
* Razeen and Placerville have both sired three winners of the race each.
* Poonawalla Farms lead Dashmesh/Hargobind 6-5.
* R.R. Byramji, S. Padmanabhan and S. Ganapathy have each trained four winners.
* In the Jockeys' Table, Aslam Kader and B. Prakash are tied with three winners each.
* Elite Zone (2005) and Retribution (2008) are full-brothers.
* The first Golconda Derby winner Nicolette (1980) was out of Nicola. Nicola's daughter Nicolina produced the 1987 winner Recommender.
* Treasure Land (dam of 2004 winner Own Vision) and Arabian Rose (dam of 2010 winner Arabian Prince) are half-sisters.
* Four daughters of Riyahi have provided a Golconda Derby winner.
* Only one got-abroad - Moment of Glory (1998) has won the race.
* In the last ten years, only two favourites - Elite Zone and Diabolical -- have won.