• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Kingfisher Ultra Derby Bangalore (Gr.1)
  • Desert God wins The Tetrasoft Inc. Bangalore St. Leger (Gr.2)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Wednesday 27 Feb 2013
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

Three horses have won the the Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 twice but only one of them belonged to the fairer sex and that was the mercurial Oasis Star who won in 2008 and 2009, both times at Malakpet. So it is appropriate that her name is prefixed to the race. However, the horse who has had the greatest impact on this race is the erstwhile Usha Stud stallion Common Land. The son of Klairon sired seven winners of the race (Calligraphy, Klairon Gold, Bergamo Fun of the Fayre, Time and Place. Icelandic and Escapade) with Klairon Gold winning twice. He was also the damsire of Fire Arch and Polar Falcon. Calligraphy, who won in 1982 was from Common Land's first crop. The stallion died in 1999 but there are three possible runners in the field for this year's renewal who have his name in their pedigrees.

Over the years, the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Championship, Gr.2 run at Mumbai has proved to be a good pointer for the Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1. Exclusive Virtue, the very first winner of the first named race, went on to win the Sprinters' Cup and since then Indiscretion, Blue Horizon and Oasis Star (in both years) have followed suit whereas Strengthtostrength, Shamaal, Spectacular Quest and Attila (both times) have used it as a prep race.

This year, Nefyn (Senure - Machrihanish) won the Dr. S.C. Jain Sprinters' Trophy, Gr.2 from Coccinella, Amadeus and Ancient Wonder with just about two lengths covering the first four finishers. Coccinella is nominated for the Super Mile while Amadeus is an absentee. Nefyn and Ancient Wonder are both seven year-olds but have retained their zest for racing well. Another curious oddity they share is that the grandam of both the geldings are daughters of Common Land. Nefyn, by Oasis Star's sire Senure, is a full-brother to the HDIL Indian Oaks, Gr.1 winner Riyasat; however, he has raced just once in his 13 starts over 1400 m. The remaining have all been at shorter distances and his eight wins are equally divided over the scurry and the sprint. Trainer Bezan Chenoy has been very patient with Nefyn and has raced him sparingly.

Ancient Wonder (China Visit - Dazzling Queen) stumbled at the start in his last race but still managed to get within a head and two lengths of the winner Nefyn. Five of his seven wins have been over 1400 m. (a distance which seems his best) while the other two have been over 1200 m. His trainer Mansoor Shah is very capable and shrewd and it would be no surprise if Ancient Wonder were to improve on his close fourth behind Attila in last year's race.

The home centre's nominations for the race are based on the result of Calcutta Champions Sprint Trophy, Gr.3 which was won by Bullet (Major Impact - Euro Star) from Sunday Storm, Crown Rule and River Star. It was a comfortable victory at about level weights. Two of Bullet's half a dozen wins have come after being re-located at Hastings. before that, he was winless for almost a year over 10 starts at Mumbai and Bangalore. The Calcutta team hence appears to be well held on form which has been very capricious this year.

Speed Six (Burden of Proof - Six Speed) won on his debut over 1100 m. Then, his next nine starts were over 1400 m. (his pet distance) or a mile. He returned to 1200 m. for his last start, the D.P. Sharma Memorial Sprinters' Trial Stakes which he won from Optimus Prime, Klipspringer and Secret Punch, three lengths covering them all. His dam, too, had returned to 1200 m.for her final start before going off to stud as had her full-sister Haunting Memories who remained much longer in training to bag the 2007 renewal of this race at Calcutta. Speed Six's Classic aspirations were affected by physical ailments and he has raced in better company so it is unlikely that Klipspringer or Secret Punch can turn the tables on him. His problem will be against specialist sprinters but he is classier than most of his rivals.

Bullseye (Kheleyf - La Cienaga) broke the Mahalakshmi track record over the scurry on her last start when winning for the fourth time from her five starts. The four year-old got abroad filly is yet to race in black-type company and this appears too stiff a task for her. More interesting is the other R.W.I.T.C., Ltd. nominee Master Bullet (Hymn - Divine Colours) whose dam is by Common Land. A four year-old like Bullseye, Master Bullet is a grey entire who has run up a sequence of seven straight wins at Delhi which includes the North India Derby, Gr.3. He is from the same family as Calligraphy who was Common Land's first winner of the race. He will provide a good index to the quality of racing at Delhi  and he is perhaps the first runner who will be saddled by a Delhi-based trainer in a Invitation Cup week-end Gr.1 race. A well-respected veteran trainer once opined that it is difficult for a four year-old sprinter to hold his own against seasoned speedsters. That opinion underlines the enormity of task that Bullseye and Master Bullet are confronted with.

The same rider would apply to Plenipotent (Iffraaj - Beldom Hill) who is bred on the same lines of Machiavellianism, runs in the same colours and is trained by L.V.R. Deshmukh. 1400 m. appears to be his ideal trip and he may find the sprint slightly too sharp. Kohinoor Wish (Gaswar - Blue Sonata) is a winner of 16 races and he has failed only twice in his 32 starts to have his number on the board. That is consistency of a very high order. He was a winner of the Nizam's Gold Cup, Gr.3 over 2000 m. during the last Hyderabad Monsoon season and had earlier been a close second to Xisca in the Golconda Textiles Deccan Derby, Gr.1 over the same distance. Recently however, he has won the Kakatiya Million, Gr.3 over 1200 m. and before that the Qutab Shahi Cup over a mile to exhibit his versatility so would he have the speed to beat specialist sprinters at their own game ?

The oldest horse in the field is the eight year-old Successor. He is as game as they come and still enjoys his racing. He was third in this race last year to Attila but three-parts of a length ahead of the fourth placed Ancient Wonder. The distance is just right for him but the age is a bit of a concern. Shivalik Star (Shamardal - Badraan) finished dead last in his last start which was in the Golconda Derby, Gr.1. He had fair form before that over shorter distance before that. However, as a half-brother to Eastern Aria, a winner of DFS Park Hill Stakes, Gr.2 over 3000 m., it is hard to imagine his winning the Oasis Star Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 on Saturday,


The first supporting race to be introduced was the Sprinters' Cup when it featured in the programme of 1979 Invitation Cup week-end at Mumbai. The grey Every Time, ridden by Karl Umrigar, won the race.

The previous five winners of the Sprinters' Cup at Calcutta are:-

1980 - Guindy Girl (Nasir Beg) (15/1) - Trained by Sajjad. Favourite Well Connected 4th.

1985 - Bergamo (H.J. Antia) (4/6 favourite) - Trained by Dallas Todywalla

1990 - Star Style Girl (V Shinde) (9/2) - Trained by R.R. Byramji. Favourite Wanderlust 2nd.

1995 - Exlusive Virtue (Aslam Kader (4/6 favourite) - Trained by Bharath Singh

 2007 - Haunting Memories (C. O'Donoghue) (5/4 favourite) - Trained by S. Ganapathy