Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd)
There have been quite a few renewals of this race in its 52 year-old history which appeared to be straight contests between two main protagonists. There was the confrontation between Own Opinion and Royal Tern in 1978. On the books, Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's chestnut was marginally better backed but it was the Goculdas horse Royal Tern who won to give the owners, trainer Bal Lagad and jockey Karl Umrigar their only success in the race. The following year, it was Aristocrat and Everynsky, both sons of Everyday II, who split the betting fraternity. This time, Dr. Ramaswamy's Aristocrat was the winner though Everynsky went on to turn the tables in the Derby. Then, for the third year running, it was the turn of two stablemates, Track Lightning and Right Ahead, to monopolise the attention. Both were trained by Rashid Byramji, both ran in the all red colours of the Khataus and they went into the race as joint favourites. Track Lightning emerged victorious in the hands of Vasant Shinde as Right Ahead finished third. Two Mumbai-based colts, Allah Rakhkha and Sir Bruce were all the rage in 1985. Though the former, ridden by Pesi Shroff, had a larger following, R.V. Gowli triumphed on Sir Bruce with the favourite running off the board. In 1996, the Narredu brothers, Satish and Mallesh, were astride the popular 'jodi' Our Minstrel and Pertigalete. Neither was involed in the finish as Mr. Deepak Khaitan's 40 to 1 outsider Phantom Dancer shocked the field.
This year, too, it appeared as if two contenders - Hachiko and Days Best - would corner the betting. There has, however, been an early twist to the tale. On Saturday, Days Best was sent out for his work with Mountain of Joy, finished six lengths behind his companion and returned to the stable in distress. It is being said that he is on his way back to Pune and his Bangalore campaign has come to a premature and unexpected end. Days Best had finished within a length of Hachiko in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 and was looking to turn the tables on Sunday. The mishap he has suffered removes the main threat to Hachiko.
Hachiko, from the first Indian-born crop of Noverre, reeled off a hat-trick culminating with a victory in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1. He was then taken, perhaps, once too often - and too soon - to well in the Shapoorji Pallonji Breeders' Juvenile Colts' Championship, Gr.3, finished third and lost his unbeaten tag. In that race, he was giving 5 kgs. to all his rivals. It is hard to say if it was that handicap, the extra 200 m. of the race or the fact that he was perhaps over the top which resulted in his defeat. Maybe a combination of all three factors. The fact is that he did finish within two lengths of the winner Blue Ace and so came out of the race with credit. Irrespective of the ratings, Hachiko is the best performed runner in the field. His sire Noverre, now sadly no more, was a top-class miler. As a sire he was successful enough for people to wonder if Darley had had discarded him prematurely. Some of his progeny like the French Derby winner Le Havre and The German Oaks winner Enora stayed further than he himself did. Hachiko's dam Indira, a winner over 2400 m., was put out of stud last year. Of her five foals to race in India, four are average winners. There is fair class and stamina further down the line and Hachiko, who is balanced inbred to Blushing Groom, should get the mile trip.
Hachiko has not had an outing in Bangalore. He has been given a mock race and tracked regularly. The difference between a mock race and a proper race outing is that as the name suggests, a mock race is a mock race. It may tell the trainer how fit a horse is and how much more - or less - work is needed. Unlike a proper race, though, it does not permit an evaluation of a rating. Only astute paddock watchers are be able to gauge the fitness of a runner. A lack of a run does make the probable favourite a wee bit vulnerable.
Probably the most outstanding performance by a colt - or a gelding - of the current Bangalore season was the 15 length victory of the grey Silver Birch (Indesatchel - Safinaz) carrying 62.5 kgs. That win has catapulted him in ratings above Hachiko and Days Best. That is flattering at best because what he beat was utter dross - three maiden three year-olds, one five year-old and two six year-olds. To be fair to Shroff's ward, it has to be mentioned that he had finished ahead of Days Best when the two horses had made their debut as two year-olds in Mumbai. The two met again in the Kunigal Stud Breeders' Produce Stakes, Gr.3 where Days Best put the grey in his place, reversing the verdict by ten lengths. His sire Indesatchel, a son of Danehill Dancer, was a speedy customer who won two Gr.3 races and was narrowly beaten by Shamardal in the Gainborough Poule d'Essai des Poulains, Gr.1. He has had winners from his first two crops. Silver Birch's dam, bred by the well-known pedigree pundit Mr. James Underwood, traces to Nogara, the dam of Nearco. Silver Birch is only her second winner apart from another in Spain from her five foals born abroad. Silver Birch may well run a big race but finishing ahead of either Hachiko will take some doing, especially if he is used to cut the wind for the son of Noverre.
There are five other 'got-abroads' - Borsalino (Choisir - Running Flame), Machiavellianism (Jazil - Empress Jessie), Plenipotent (Iffraaj - Beldon Hill), Red Baron (Ad Valorem - Kon Tiki) and Southern Opinion (Consolidator - Tranquil Star) - who could figure in the line-up. Padmanabhan's Borsalino, like Hachiko, hasn't raced this term but has had a mock race where he finished upsides of Hachiko. Second to Southern Opinion on debut as a two year-old, he shed his maiden tag towards the end of January before going on to Mumbai. He was well beaten in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 but redeemed himself by splitting Blue Ace and Hachiko in the next race. His sire - who had Amadeus last year, is a speed rather than a Classic sire. His dam won the Invitation Cup in 1999 beating the great Saddle Up. She has had five foals abroad, all by good stallions, and only one of them managed to win; that, too, in the French provinces. Sending a fancied runner into a Classic without a race run in not the norm with Padmanabhan.
Machiavellianism and Plenipotent, both trained by L.V.R. Deshmukh, were both beaten second by the leading fillies in their lead-up races. The former was comfortably disposed off by Portia while the latter made Maple Star earn her laurels. Machiavellianism, who cut no mustard when taken to Mumbai, is from the first crop of Belmont Stakes, Gr.1 winner Jazil and from the immediate family of Arazi, Noverre, Formidable and others. Four of his six siblings are winners in U.S.A. Machiavellianism is closely related to Plenipotent, his dam being a half-sister to the grandam of the latter. Iffraaj, the sire of Plenipotent, produced more winners from his first crop in Europe than any other stallion ever. He is essentially a speed sire but quite capable of siring good mile winners. Plenipotent's dam won three races upto 1400 m. in England on all-weather tracks. Trainer Deshmukh was not present at Bangalore last Sunday to lead in Vijays Pride, who won at very long odds. Machiavellianism and Plenipotent go into the race with better credentials than Vijays Pride so maybe Deshmukh will decide to make the trip.
Karthik Ganapathy trained Red Baron is very interestingly bred. His sire Ad Valorem (by Danzig) is from the same family as Steinbeck while his third dam is a three-parts sister to Razeen. Kon Tiki, the dam of Red Baron did not win but is a half-sister to two Group winners in Sea Lord (by a grandson of Danzig) and French Navy. Red Baron has two wins from four starts and though he doesn't have any black-type, he has a win over a mile at Mahalakshmi. His bracket-mate Southern Opinion won two races as a two year-old at Bangalore. Taken to Mumbai for the Kunigal Stud Breeders' Produce Stakes, Gr.3, he finished second, within two lengths of the winner Days Best. Machiavellianism was only fourth in that race. However, in his next two runs - in the Poonawalla Breeders' Million, Gr.1 and Nanoli Stud Juvenile Million, Gr.2 -- Machiavellianism has finished ahead of him. His sire, the Storm Cat horse Consolidator was a Gr.1 winner in U.S.A. Retired to stud in Florida, he has had some minor stakes winners. Consolidator, who shuttled to Australia, is now in the Philippines.
Mr. Arjun Sajnani is an owner who has enjoyed considerable success without having a large string. Maths Baby (Mathematician - Cannon Baby), trained by Jaggy Dhariwal and the unbeaten Sun Divine (Burden of Proof - Divine Dreams), who is with Neil Darashah could both carry Mr. Sajnani's silks. Like Midtown, Mathematician appears to be a sire of good, consistent horses rather than Classic types. Maths Baby comes from an old, established Byerly Stud family of Brave Dancer - so a good run from him will be heartening. Sun Divine has won only two ordinary races over sprints. A mile will suit him better and had Divine Dreams - herself a winner of Golconda Derby, Gr.1 and a full-sister to the dam of Mystical not been so disappointing as a broodmare, Sun Divine would have been termed as being bred in the purple. Divine Dreams has had nine foals of whom seven have raced and five have won. Sadly, none of the five winners earned any black-type. Perhaps, the Sajnani touch will change that.
A local contender who is a black-type winner is Super Storm (Rebuttal - Cielo Vodkamartini). Trained by Satish Narredu, he won the Bangalore Juvenile Million, Gr.3 in March. On his previous start, he had won the Governor's Cup over a mile so he is the only course and distance winner in the field. He was fourth in Portia's race and reportedly bled in the race however the bleed from his right nostril was apparently from an injury to his nasal bone and due to EIPH [Exercise Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage] . Rebuttal, the sire sensation of last year, needs a good winner from his second crop and Super Storm shapes as one who could provide it. Super Storm, like some of the better Rebuttals, is inbred to Mr. Prospector. His half-brother by the miler Aussie Rules won two races over 1800 m. and 2000 m. and it looks as if the dam is prepotent for stamina.
Mallesh, the younger Narredu, also has a promising Rebuttal in Shivalik Hero (out of Mullagh) who has hoisted the winning flag at Pune, Mumbai and recently in Bangalore. When he won at Mahalakshmi in January, he beat Portia by almost four lengths. Portia's good run last Sunday certainly boosts the stock of Shivalik Hero. His Bangalore win was also eye-catching. Montepelier had a useful lead when Shivalik Hero was alerted by Suraj Narredu and Mr. Nirmal Singh's chestnut not only collared the front runner but was going away at the finish. The Colts' Championship comes a bit too soon - just a two week gap - and it was noticeable that in the Fillies Championship Maple Star and Centrestage, both running within a fortnight, failed to reproduce the form of their previous runs. Of course, each horse is different and their recovery times vary according to their individual constitutions. Shivalik Hero's dam failed to place in her four starts in Ireland but is a half-sister to a Listed winner over a mile in Germany. Their dam is a half-sister to the excellent sprinter and an even better sire Green Desert.
Classic-placed Captivating's full-brother, Cecil (Burden of Proof - Cesandri) and black-type winner Kiara's full-brother Absolute Majority (China Visit - Blue Ridge) are also expected to be in the field. Blue Ridge has had six foals previously, all of them are winners but none, including two by stamina orientated Razeen, has won beyond 1400 m.
Last week-end, two well backed fancies bit the dust in the day's feature -- Volterra on Saturday and Portia on Sunday. Both raced in the Shirke colours and were trained by Pesi Shroff. Hachiko will be ridden by Prakash in the same colours but he will be saddled by M.K. Jadhav. Exactly forty years ago, Jadhav sent out the one-eyed Rock Witness to win the Bangalore Fillies' Trial Stakes for the popular comedian Mehmood.
PAST THE POST
* In the last 11 runnings, five favourites have won the race and five have placed. The favourite who failed, Fantabulous King, went on to win the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1
* Hachiko will be the ninth winner of the Poonawalla Breeders' Million to contest a mile Classic at Bangalore in June. Winning Pretty, Six Speed, Priceless and Haunting Memories are the four fillies which bagged the double while Forest Fantasy and Blurr failed to do so. Brave Hunter, the first colt to attempt the double, was unsuccessful but Bourbon King won both the races.
* This millennium, three winners of the race, Grosvenor Square, Sprint Star and Pronto Pronto had not raced at Bangalore during the summer season.
* Four 'got-abroads' have won the race, last one being Royal Gladiator in 2001.
* Of the currently active professionals likey to have a runner in the race on Sunday, S. Ganapathy and B. Prakash have the best record with three winners apiece.