It’s time to study the line-up for the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby and try to zero in on the pick of the lot. This year, 13 runners will face the starter and one among them, will be crowned the Champion. Pre-race analysis always is an interesting exercise and before you dust your record books, it may help to know what the people-in-the-know feel about the contenders. Indiarace walked through the racing big-wigs and gathered the thoughts of those who matter and were forthcoming in giving their valuable views.
Vivek Jain: It is a very competitive race and singling out a particular fancy is difficult. It appears to be between In The Spotlight and Pronto Pronto. The upset could be Ranthambhore or Star Marquess.
ZS Poonawalla: In one sentence – In The Spotlight, will be in the spotlight. Get that?
KN Dhunjibhoy: I feel the colts have a better chance and I hope Picasso will run a big race.
Vijay Shirke: Pronto Pronto and Hills And Stars should be involved in an interesting finish. I hope Hills and Stars wins only because my thoughts are with Vinayak. I am not convinced that the others in the fray will stay the trip although Smashing won the Oaks impressively. The Derby is a different ball game and Smashing will have to scale higher levels which I think is difficult. I sincerely hope that Hills And Stars does it for Vinayak.
Adar Poonawalla: We feel the derby trip is most suited for Hills And Stars and are very hopeful of winning it.
Zeyn Mirza: We are bullish with Smashing. Her Oaks victory was attractive and she is feeling well too after that run. I was particularly impressed with her strong finish and I don’t see why she won’t reproduce that run again.
Mohit Lalvani: It takes a very special horse to win the Colts Trial, Bangalore Summer Derby and the Indian 2000 Guineas. There’s very little in Pronto Pronto’s pedigree to suggest that he is mile and a half horse but his report card clearly outweighs his lineage. The fillies too will run a big race.
Imtiaz Sait: Pronto Pronto is an ordinary looking horse with an extraordinary heart. He doesn’t seem to know how to lose. Pronto Pronto and Srinath have struck an incredible alliance and Srinath knows him as well as he knows himself. I am very optimistic.
Narendra Lagad: In my opinion, In The Spotlight is the filly to watch out for. Her Calcutta Derby win was exceptional. Pronto Pronto too is a strong contender. I am praying for Hills And Stars to do well as that would be a great thing for my friend and fellow-trainer Vinayak.
Magan Singh: I am happy for Adhiraj as having a Derby contender in just one year into training is a good thing to experience. His ward Ranthambhore is in great heart as witnessed in his last victory. I am hoping Ranthambhore will provide an interesting finish.
Rehanullah Khan: In The Spotlight is a very versatile filly and she has done nothing wrong so far. She is a very strong galloper and maintains this throughout the race. She is a strong contender. Pronto Pronto is the other one among the colts that is very much in the reckoning.
Zadmal Singh: It is an open race with no outright pre-race favourite. I think Pronto Pronto, Hills And Stars will be involved in the finish.
Malesh Narredu: Hills And Stars for me. She is a top class filly. She is a light filly hence, she has been raced sparingly. The rest after the Guineas would have done her a world of good. The Derby trip should suit her more and I think Hills And Stars is the one they all have to beat.
Adhiraj Jodha: I am happy with the way Ranthambhore is progressing. I was pleasantly surprised at the manner of his victory over a mile. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to win so aggressively and this victory has given me a lot of confidence in him. I have sent him on gallops over longer distances and I can tell you, he will stay the Derby trip.
Richard Hughes: Hills And Stars is shaping up very well and she stays well and prefers longer trips which is most important. She has had good lot of time to regroup herself and she is now ready for the fray. The horse to beat however, is Pronto Pronto and I now know how. Hills And Stars has shown some spunk of late and I am happy with the way she will turn out.
Martin Dwayer: It was Paddy’s decision that I ride In The Spotlight, I have a good equation with the filly. She is in great heart and her performance in the Calcutta Derby was supreme. I am confident that she will run a good race. Field Marshal too is very much in the reckoning.
Anthony Crastus: Smashing was a totally different filly in the Oaks. She showed plenty of brilliance. She is peaking at the right time. I think I have to beat Picasso to win the Derby. It’s not going to be as easy as the Oaks, but I am confident she will do very well.
Stephane Pasquier: Picasso was way below his best in the Guineas and now he is training brilliantly. I was particularly satisfied with his mock race. Picasso win run a big race.
David Allan: Field Marshal has worked very well and he is much better equipped now with his run in the Ruia Cup. I am optimistic with the way he has progressed in training post that run. In The Spotlight too is shaping up well as a strong contender.
C Rajendra: I feel it will be a close finish between In The spotlight, Pronto Pronto, Smashing and Hills And Stars. This makes a formidable quartet. The others will have to gallop out of their skins to beat these four who are closely matched.
PS Chouhan : In The Spotlight is in rousing form and her streak of victories coming into the McDowell Indian Derby proves she has great credentials. Her Calcutta Derby victory in particular was spectacular. Star Marquess bears watching too, he ran a good prep and looks in great shape.
CD Hayes: Star Marquess was right up there fighting till the end. That was a good run for me. He has further improved and he could spring a surprise. He is in fine trim.
Neeraj Rawal: Ranthambhore’s scintillating victory brings him right into the picture. It would be a great moment for Adhiraj as young trainer to have a candidate for the Derby in Ramthambhore representing his stables. His victory was indeed very impressive, and he could upset.
Deepak Rajpal: In The Spotlight has not put a foot wrong. She is sublime form and getting better with each run. Picasso and Pronto Pronto are two outstanding contenders who could make the finish interesting.
Indiarace View: The manner of Hills And Stars’ Nanoli Pune Derby victory was a candid statement by the filly that she can stay the distance comfortably. She was simply amazing then even though the opposition was ordinary. She finished fourth in the Guineas, but one cant fail to notice that she did not get a clear passage. When she made her final charge, she finished on strongest and that implies that she will relish the longer distance for the Derby. Richard Hughes will be a huge advantage as her ally to guide her fortunes, Hills and Stars then, is the prime contender, with Smashing, Pronto Pronto and In The Spotlight as the best combination to win the swank Mercedes Benz at the Mumbai racecourse for the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby contest. If there is a prize for the best looking horse, Cardinal should win it hands down.