• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 14 Jun 2013
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The 2010 crop kicked off its Classic year in Ooty last month. Those events, however, have little significance outside the state of Tamil Nadu in the eyes of most people. As such, the ball will be really set rolling when 15 fillies report to the Starter on Sunday.  

Bar the three St. Legers yet to be run at Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad, the 2009 crop has almost completed its assignment. Not counting the Tamil Nadu events, that crop has run in 27 Classics. The 'got-abroads' dominated, form went haywire and only seven favourites obliged to return a percentage of 22.22 which is much lower than the average percentage of winning favourites. It has definitely left a sour taste.  Looking ahead to the prospects of 2010 crop, the 'got-abroads' should once again be in the limelight for the simple reason that as many 190 mares, most of them in foal, were imported as against only 112 the previous year. There are cycles in nature as well as racing and the poor run of the favourites in 2012-13 is possibly as low as it can get. You can be certain that the favourites will fare much better in coming year though how much better is difficult to forecast. Balance is always restored but usually over a period of time. 

The Bangalore Fillies' Trial Stakes, Gr.1 has attracted a good-sized field, the biggest in the last 25 years barring 2011 when Lovely Kiss overcame her 15 rivals, and Cooji Katrak trained Starry Eyes  (Multidimensional - Pricewise) will most probably start the favourite.  Starry Eyes will go into the race without a run during the current Bangalore season. She has had a mock race in mid-May, has been steadily brought along since and her last two workouts have been quite brilliant. She is trained by Cooji Katrak who is generally averse to aiming his wards away from Western India. When he does venture out, you can certain that he thinks highly of the horse.  Starry Eyes was beaten a neck on her debut by Mariinsky despite enjoying an advantage of 4 kgs. She then won her maiden stylishly and was beaten narrowly by Murioi in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1. Her progress had been eye-catching for this time she beat Mariinsky at level weights by a shade over three lengths. Starry Eyes ended her Mumbai campaign with a facile victory in the Forbes Breeders' Juvenile Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.3, winning by seven and a half lengths. In winning that race, she drifted out of a straight course after hitting the front and that lost her points in the esteem of some followers. Not keeping a straight course is not always a sign of weakness. Exhilaration won the Indian Derby finishing closer to the stand rail and yet ran straight as an arrow next time out in the Invitation Cup. Congratulations was banned after an erratic run; she later won the Indian Oaks. Katrak's filly, who will run in the colours of Dr. Y.K. Hamied and Mr. Atul Amersey, is the third foal her dam Pricewise. The first by China Visit was born dead while the second by Steinbeck, named Pranayam, ran just once. Pricewise, who was fourth to Lindsay in this race in 2004 and occupied the same place in Venus Arising's Indian Oaks, Gr.1, is a full-sister to Classic winners Allied Forces and Perceived Value. Starry Eyes could well find 1600 m. a trifle too sharp against a specialist miler. 

Mariinsky (Burden of Proof - Sabre Dance) made her debut as early as late October in Pune when she placed second to Decathlon. She won her next two races after going to Mumbai, one in December and the other in January where she easily accounted for the debutante Starry Eyes who was in receipt of four kgs. When the two fillies met again in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1, it was the Multidimensional filly who came out on top at level weights though neither could get better of the winner Murioi. Mariinsky was about three and a half lengths behind Murioi in that race. That margin was reduced to a length and a quarter in the Nanoli Stud Bangalore Juvenile Million, Gr.3 last month to indicate that the Shroff-trained filly, who will carry the silks of Aquarius Martime as did Xisca, had improved. Mariinsky is a full-sister to Fleeting Arrow who won the Bangalore Colts' Trial Stakes, Gr.1 in 2008. Their dam Sabre Dance is a winner of the Castrol Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3. If Mariinsky wins on Sunday, Sabre Dance will become the third mare, after Celandine (dam of Corrente de Ouro, Camineto and Camino) and Urvashi (dam of Chaitanya Ratham and Chaitanya Chakram), to provide the winners of Bangalore's first two summer Classics. 

Mariinsky's four full-siblings - Peace Prize, Scimitar, Fleeting Arrow and Hatsuhana have won 20 races between them and only one of them has been further than a mile. This suggests that a mile is perhaps the ideal distance for the filly though she is yet to win beyond 1200 m. Another interesting aspect is that of her four full-siblings, three were chestnuts while the fourth, Fleeting Arrow was a bay like herself and a Classic winner. Mariinsky has won both her races over sprints. Burden of Proof's progeny has won Classics at all the four major centres though it is safe to say that Bangalore is its happy hunting ground. 

Striking (Multidimensional - Dazzling Skill) lost her unbeaten tag last month when she failed to collar Turf Striker in the Mayor's Cup. She had every chance at the top of the straight but having to give 6 kgs. to the winner proved beyond her. She may well have been in the need of that run for her change of gears was neither smooth nor swift. Before that, she had won all her three starts; on debut at Bangalore as a two year-old and two black-type wins at Hyderabad, though one of them was taken away from her for testing positive. A line through Scenic Warrior brings her in contention with Starry Eyes and Mariinsky. She is the first foal of her dam who won a race for Dr. Ramaswamy and then was third in the Forbes Breeders' Juvenile Fillies' Championship, Gr.3. Something went amiss thereafter as she failed to place in her remaining three starts and was retired to stud. Dazzling Skill is a full-sister to Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Noble View and three-parts sister to black-type winners Lunar Music, Al Dente, River God and Adesina. This stirps of the Sanfara family (to which, incidentally, Burden of Proof belongs) has excelled in India around a mile and so Striking will be going over an ideal trip. 

A filly with impeccable credentials is Palm Springs (Placerville - Shalaya) who has three wins and three seconds from six starts. She is the only filly in the field to have won two black-type events though she gets credited with the Byerly Turk Stakes, Gr.3 only because Striking, a four-length winner, was disqualified. By a proven Classic sire, her grandam is a three-parts sister to the Epsom Derby winner Shahrastani. Shalaya's four previous foals, including threee full siblings to Palm Springs, have been rather average. 

Running in the same colours as Starry Eyes will be Highraz (Razeen - Altitude), a full-sister to Classic winners Flashing Star and Hills and Stars. She has run just once so far. Like her bracket-mate she is a winner over a mile (where she beat Bright Lady by a length) and hasn't raced during the current season though her trainer Imtiaz Sait has subjected her to a steady preparation. Bred to get longer, it is difficult to asses her role on Sunday. Will she be a pacemaker? Unlikely. Will she be out for an airing with eyes on something bigger in July? Probable. 

Apart from Mariinsky, Pesi Shroff will also field Amelia (Multidimensional - Adamile, a star miler of her time).  A winner on debut, she was a close second next time out in a Million race. Just two races makes her a bit inexperienced but she has worked well, runs in the colours of Miss Ameeta Mehra and partners, and has the bloodlines for the job. One of the three Multidimensional fillies in the race, all out of Razeen mares, her breeder-owner must be hoping for one of them to come up trumps. 

Also lightly raced Isn't She Special (Ace - Rain Splasher) won her last start brilliantly against mediocre opposition. This Gr.1 contest probably comes a bit too soon for her. What's more, trainer Padmanabhan has waited till the Mysore season in recent years to unleash his Classic stars. What is in her favour, though, is that the only Classic winner to the credit of her sire Ace - very much in need of a boost has been trained by Padmanabhan; she will carry the same silks as those sported by In The Spotlight and that she comes from the same family as Smart Chieftan, Classical Act, Southern Empire and Change of Luck. Rain Splasher herself was sent out by Padmanabhan to win the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 and place third in this very race some years back behind Haunting Memories and Lombardia.  

The field contains no 'got-abroad'; one maiden in Beauty Is Truth and the outstation challengers (five from Mumbai and two each from Hyderabad and Mysore) outnumber the home team 9-6. None of the fillies from Mumbai have raced in Bangalore. There is no course and distance winner while Starry Eyes and Highraz are winners over a mile. The pair from Mysore has an identical record of three wins from starts and a second. First season sires are well represented with Multidimensional having three daughters (same number as the established Burden of Proof) and Phoenix Tower two. Poonawalla farms, Usha Stud and Kunigal Stud have four runners each. Dr. Vijay Mallya has an interest in three runners while Dr. Y.K. Hamied and partners as well as Mr. Shapoor Mistry field a brace each. In summation, if Starry Eyes steps out "14 annas fit", she will take a lot of catching.  

With the monsoon having hit southern India, there is always the possibility that the race is run in soft or even heavy going. An individual runner's reaction to the going is a matter of conjecture till it is established by evidence. There are diverse views on the subject but suffice to say that in England a trainer has the option of declaring a horse "subject to conditions". The progeny of the stallion Fairy King excelled in soft going and the same is possibly true of his son Burden of Proof. It is too early to say whether the Multidimensionals have a going preference but what is known is that the son of Danehill himself was quite versatile winning thrice on good to firm going and once each on soft and heavy tracks. The going is an important factor in the outcome of a race and those who believe that a horse can be trained to act in any going are entitled to their opinion. That's like saying that Roger Federer, with proper training, can beat Rafael Nadal on clay or that Saeed Ajmal can be as effective on a green top as James Anderson. 


The Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes or the Fillies' Trial as it was earlier called, provides an early opportunity for a Freshman Sire to leave his calling card. As a matter of interest, the details of Freshman Sires who have produced winners of the race from their first crops are given below; 

      GOLESTAN - sire of Hovercraft (1963)

      PADDYKIN  - sire of Fire Haven(1973) who dead-heated with Air Hostess

      RIYAHI  - sire of Divine Light (1987)

      RAZEEN - sire of SANTORINI STAR (1996)

      BURDEN OF PROOF - sire of LINDSAY (2004)

      REBUTTAL - sire of Lovely Kiss (2011)  

The late Sir Henry Cecil contributed significantly albeit indirectly to Indian racing and breeding. Two of the all-time greatest stallions in Indian breeding history, Razeen and Placerville were trained by him. Usha Stud's new stallion Multidimensional was also a member of his Warren Place team in Newmarket. All three of them have runners in the race and if one of them was to win, it will be a fitting posthumous tribute to a great trainer.R.I.P.