• 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.)
Friday 01 Mar 2013
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

Note: Written Before Acceptances Stage.

Whichever way you look at it, the thunder of the Winter Season has been stolen by trainer L.V.R. Deshmukh, his jockey P.S. Chouhan and horses running in the colours of the late Mr. D. Pratap Chander Reddy. Vijays Pride, Machiavellianism and Tintinnabulation, all 'got-abroads', have won Classics at Hyderbad and Mumbai. The high noon of the Winter Season will be Invitation Cup week-end at Calcutta and if they win one of the Gr.1 races, it will be a perfect end to a highly successful campain. Their hopes will be carried by Plenipotent in the Oasis Star Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 and Vijayshaurya-Vijays Champ duo in the Stayers' Cup, Gr. 1 on Saturday. Tintinnabulation runs in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 and finally there will be Vijays Pride in the Maj. P.K. Mehra Memorial Super Mile, Gr.1.

It is Vijays Pride (Bertolini - Designer Chic) who perhaps has the best chance of provding the team with the cherry on the top. The Classic crop has had the best strike-rate in the three Gr.1 races which were hitherto all-aged affairs. In the last eight renewals, the four year-olds have been foiled only twice; first by  Diego Rivera and then by Mr. Greedy.  Admittedly, it is a bit optimistic to pick the lowest rated runner in the field and bestow it with the best winning chance. The Mebajeona-bred filly, however, stands apart from all others by just one single fact - she has never been beaten over a mile ! The worry in her case is that she comes from behind and nails her rivals literally in the shadow of the winning post. A slight misjudgement by the jockey, a bit of interference at a crucial juncture or a lack of a clear run in good-sized field can mean the difference between winning and losing.

There are three other mile Classic winners from the 2009 crop also in the contest and they are Maximus, Chase The Sun and Malpensa. Maximus (Royal Kingdom - Marquisa) shocked Machiavellianism in the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. His two subsequent runs over longer distances have been disappointing but back over a mile, he cannot be ignored. Since being sent to Calcutta, Dr. Vijay Mallya's chestnut filly Chase the Sun (Burden of Proof - Catch Fire) has won (post Silverina's disqualification) three of her four starts. Malpensa (Hurricane State - Northern Frontier) beat her by a long neck in the Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. Malpensa and Vijays Pride are rated at 98; Maximus at 100 and Chase The Sun is marked at 102. Not much to choose between them and it is the fact Vijays Pride has won two Gr.1 contests - the utra-competitive Bangalore Fillies' Trial Stakes and the Gitanjali Indian 1000 Guineas which makes the Deshmukh-trained filly an intrinsically much superior filly. There is one other four year-old in the nominations and that is Shivalik Star who is also nominated for the Oasis Star Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 the previous day. At 104, he is the highest rated of his age group.

The older horses outnumber the four year-old and have in their ranks only one Classic winner and that is Immense. It is also a fact that only one Classic winner, Oxford Blue has won the Super Mile so this year's team of older horses has nothing to be disheartened about. The older horses, on an average, are rated about 10 points higher than the four year-olds and that is understandable since so far the Classic generation has been competing among itself and has had not the opportunity of improving its rating.

The highest rated horse in the field is Star of Gibralatar (Alnasr Alwasheek - Dancing Image). The five year-old entire is a versatile sort but five of his eight wins have been over a mile and that appears to be his ideal trip. On his last start he won the R.N. Kanga Gold Cup on the Derby day where Rajasthan Royals and Ranthambhore finished behind him. The two gelded sons of Hymn are trained by Adhirajsingh Jodha and provide the young schooler with a splendid opportunity to demonstrate his potential. It is under his tutelage that the pair won their first black-type races. Incidentally, they also provided their sire, the beautifully bred Hymn, with his first black-type winners. That indicated that the third generation trainer has a different perspective of the game than his father and grand-father. On Mumbai form, Star of Gibraltar, Ranthambore and and Rajasthan Royals (who is more at home over something shorter than a mile) easily hold Berlusconi, the lone older horse nominated by Calcutta. Berlusconi, by the way, appears to be better suited by longer trips.

When Immense (Gaswar - Alto Miss) won the Deccan Bookmakers' Hyderabad Colts' Trial Stakes, Gr.3 in September 2010, Kohinoor Wish (Gaswar - Blue Sonata) was third, just a shade over two lengths behind. The two sons of Gaswar have proved durable and held their form remarkably well. Immense, who is an entire, has raced mostly around a mile; the gelded Kohinoor Wish has ventured over a bit further and picked up the Nizam's Gold Cup, Gr.3. Immense has been in Calcutta for much longer and would be well acclimatised. Kohinoor Wish is nominated for the Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 a day earlier and his run in that race will point to his likely chances over a mile which perhaps suits him better than a sprint.

Coccinella (Alnasr Alwasheek - Palazzio), second to Nefyn in her last start at Mahalakshmi, is a full-sister to Palazzio's Sun,  2010 winner of the Sprinters' Cup. The Shroff-trained filly is, however, trying to emulate her dam who won this race in 2003. The other two Bangalore challengers, both uncut, are the eight year-old Aristos (Okawango - Leros)  and Hillfiger (Burden of Proof - Clear Cut). Aristos is true miler, his ten wins being equally divided between 1400 m. and a mile. Though long in the tooth, he still raises a good gallop and on his last start split Kohinoor Wish and Nasheeta in the Qutab Shahi Gold Cup at Malakpet, being less than a length behind the winner, though in receipt of a kilogram. Hillfiger's first three wins were over a sprint. He then won over 1400 m. and on his last start, his first over a mile, came up trumps beating Southern Bay and Sprint Star. He has been sparingly raced and of the older horses has much unexposed potential.

Every horse in the field is there on merits and competes with a chance. It is the sheer class of Vijays Pride that singles her out and gives her a slight but definite edge. The previous winners of this race at Calcutta are:-

1985 - BERGAMO (P. Shroff) (4/6 favourite) - trained by Dallas Todywalla

1990 - not run

1995 - ACCOMPLISH (P. Shroff) - trained by R.R. Byamji. Favourite Exclusive Virtue 3rd.

2007 - SECRET MEMORY (C. O'Donoghue) (1/3 favourite) - trained by S. Ganapathy


The Super Mile first featured on an Invitation Cup week-end in 1983 at Hyderabad and Camino, trained by R.R. Byramji, took home the trophy. The race was not run in 1989 at Mumbai and 1990 at Calcutta. The eminent breeder Maj P.K. Mehra, the founder of the Usha Stud, passed away in a tragic helicopter crash in 2001. From 2002 onwards, the race has been sponsored by his daughter Ameeta Mehra and run as the Maj. P.K. Mehra Super Mile Cup.

The late Maj. P.K.Mehra was a sportsman. At the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, he was awarded the blue for riding, swimming and squash. He was commissioned in 61 Cavalry and captained the Indian Polo team. His first foray into the world of breeding was when, as a young captain, he imported the mare Eagle Don in foal to Entanglement in 1966. That foal, named Mica Express, won the South India Oaks, Gr.2. Later, he was the Commandant of the President's Bodyguard. Maj. Mehra's embryonic stud first saw the light of the day in the President's Estate and that is where the stallion Grey Gaston stood initially. He bought land in Gurgaon area and the first foalings of Usha Stud took place in 1974. The first foal to be born at Usha Stud was a bay colt by Grey Gaston out of Dusty Marta. Manitou, as he came to be later called, won the Derby Bangalore, the Indian Derby by a distance in a record time and the Indian Turf Invitation Cup.