• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 10 Jan 2014
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

There is no big race in India that has been won by Mr. Deepak Khaitan as often as the Calcutta Derby. 17 renewals have seen horses carrying his gold and red livery first past the post. In the last five years, however, four outstation challengers took away the riches. It was the then relatively inexperienced Arjun Mangalorkar who showed the way when he came with the filly Abs Fabs in 2009 and grabbed the honours. Pesi Shroff followed suit with Bruckner and Xisca and S. Padmanabhan made it four-in-a-row for the raiders with the peerless In The Spotlight. The sequence was broken by Snowscape last year and it was business as usual with Mr. Deepak Khaitan lifting the trophy. half the field this year will run in his colours. 

In the last ten runnings, Mr. Khaitan has won four times and the same number of favourites have obliged, Aristotle being the lone public fancy to win for the local warlord. What is significant is that eight of the winners had won their previous starts with six of them - Psychic Flame, Aristotle, Moon Forest, Regal Connection, Bruckner and Snowscape - stepping up successfully from a mile to a mile and a half. To that sextet, can be added Aperitivo who had finished second in the Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. Xisca and In The Spotlight had a course and distance victory to their credit having won the Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3 while another filly, Abs Fabs, had come to Calcutta having run behind Icebreaker in the Poonawalla Bangalore Derby, Gr.1. 

Usha Stud's first season sire Multidimensional is well represented with as many as six contestants and a son of his, Snowdrift (out of Snow Tiger) is the highest rated runner in the field. The gelding earned that mark after he won the Nanoli Stud Calcutta Gold Cup, Gr.2 beating older horses Ocean and Beyond and Dandified, albeit at a substantial weight advantage. The connections sent Regal Connection and Dandified into the Derby following a Gold Cup win in their respective years. Regal Connection won the Derby whereas Dandified by hacked by In The Spotlight. Snowdrift is a half-brother to last year's winner Snowscape and belongs to Usha Stud's well established Amber Forest family which has more speed than stamina. (Snowscape himself has won only once after his Derby triumph when brought back to 1400 m.). Snowdrift, who has a telling but short finishing burst, has never raced beyond a mile. He may have the class but stamina will have to be trusted as tries to emulate three pairs of siblings - (Topmost-Topspin), (Romantic Dancer-Romantic Memories) and (Academy Gold-Romantic Notes) - who have won the race in the past.  

The best bred of Multidimensionals is undoubtedly Adiella whose dam won Psychic Flame won the Calcutta Derby in her year and then went on to win the McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1 at Mahalakshmi. Psychic Flame's three-parts brother Moon Forest also won the Calcutta Derby while her full-sister Supreme Princess claimed the Calcutta Oaks. The finishing order in the Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 was Charlatan, Adiella, Snowdrift and Multimagic and a shade over two lengths covered them. Arti Doctor-trained Multimagic (out of Magical Romance) is a brother-in-blood to Roses In Bloom who started as the favourite in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 and finished fourth. There isn't much between the four of them and their finishing order on Sunday will depend on how well they get the trip and how they are ridden. Two Calcutta Derby winning fillies have later produced a winner of the same race; Adelina got the Calcutta Triple Crown winner Aspirant while Altimara is the dam of Xisca. 

The only course and distance winner in the field is Artesia (Multidimensional - Trois Etoiles), winner of the Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3. The Alysheba mare Trois Etoiles came to Usha Stud late in 1995. Though not in foal when she arrived, in time she has proved to be an important addition to the Usha broodmare band, even if mares like Gourgandine and Fly For Baby hogged the attention. In 16 years, she produced 15 foals and the 13 that have raced have all been winners. Noble Opinion won the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 while four others earned the small balck-type. Trois Etoiles won three races in France including one over 2300 m. Yet, none of her foals, mostly by Razeen, won beyond 2000 m. till Artesia. Trois Etoiles, of course, is the grandam of Set Alight. Artesia has a lot going for her but much will depend on how she fits into the stable plans as she takes the Xisca/In the Spotlight route. 

The other notable Multidimensional is Evraz (out of Silken Star), a half-brother to Golconda Oaks,Gr.2 winner Simply Stylish. Their dam is a full-sister to Allaire, a winner of the Kingfisher Indian Oaks.Gr.1 and half-sister to Acrobat (Bangalore Colts' Trial Stakes, Gr.1) as also Fly For Avie (E.P. Taylor Stakes, Gr.1 over 2400 m. in Canada). In his last win over a mile, Evraz beat Winged Foot by over six lengths. Winged Foot,who is out of a daughter of Allaire, subsequently won the Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2 in a close finish. Evraz is bred to stay but was rather surprisingly beaten in a handicap over 2000 m. last time out as a firm favourite in Bangalore. He is trained by Darius Byramji who also had the charge of Artesia and Argiano when they won their first races so he has first hand knowledge of the competition. The trainer saddled his last Classic winner, Bid For Gold, at Calcutta a little over four years ago. 

The main challenge to the Multidimensionals comes from a pair of runners - Charlatan and Arabian Warrior - born at Kunigal Stud. That nursery has been going great guns of late. Both will be carrying Dr.Vijay Mallya's colours which have been very prominent in the Classics round the country this year. Charlatan (Burden of Proof - Corsican Gal) won the Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 after having placed in the Derbies at Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mysore. Those placings added a pretty penny to his bank account from which paying the the final entry fee to run on Sunday is a pittance. He is the only descendant of the Balidar mare Bou Bou - his fourth dam - to have won beyond a mile so his staying quotient is in doubt. He is, however, as game as they come and gives a run for the money each and every time. He will probably be ridden with restraint by Trevor to husband his stamina. 

There are no doubts whatsoever of the lung power of Arabian Warrior (Brave Act - Arabian Rose) who is a full-brother to Arabian Knight and a half-brother to Arabian Prince. The Knight and the Prince are winners of the Stayers' Cup, Gr.1; their dam won the Classic Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 while the next dam Self Reliance won the South India St. Leger, Gr.1 in record time. This is the ultra-staying family of Treasure Land, Accomplish, Own Ability, Own Vision and Macchupicchu. Against that is his relative inexperience at this level. He showed a glimpse of his potential when finishing quite close to Argiano in the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.2 as a maiden. He has raced just once since when he won over a mile. His French jockey Beuzelin will be happy to make the pace or just sit behind it. 

The advantage for the home team is that it can make up the numbers at will and the Khaitan camp has a likely sort in Argiano (Warrshan - Santarelle) who won the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.3 (2000 m.) and on New Year's day picked up the R.C.T.C. Gold Vase over 2200 m. Since Snowscape had also won on the New Year's day last year, the connections would be justified in construing that as an happy augury. Before that, Argiano had been used to make the pace in the Calcutta 2000 Guineas and the Nanoli Stud Calcutta Gold Cup. Argiano is a full-brother to Unleashed, a winner of six races upto 2000 m., whom Darius Byramji saddled when a length second to Sun Kingdom in the VIF Bangalore Derby, 

Gr.1. The other two runners are Mr. Khaitan's Exclusive Colours (Multidimensional - Glorious Colours) who may lead for a while before handing the baton to Argiano and Dr. Ramaswamy's Captain Courageous (Captain Marvellous - Vade Retro). The latter is by an average sprinter from a smart family and could have problems seeing the trip out.  

One of the reasons why form sometimes goes haywire in a big race is that some horses who are specifically targeted for a particular race are less than earnest in their lead-ups. "Hiding his talents under a bushel" was a favourite phrase of the old Motee Race Card's Mr. Eugene D'Avoine. And, when a stable has more than one runner in the race, the role of each one assumes a great significance. 

It is fascinating to try and visualise how the race will unfold. One possible scenario is that Argiano will hit the front early. Since he has been used as a pacemaker in recent times, the opposition would be excused into believing that the jockey is merely riding to instructions and allow Argiano either a soft lead or permit him to open too long a gap. He will be expected to come back to the field but a horse who has won the Calcutta Monsoon Derby and another race over 2200 m. has enough class and stamina to set sail for home. Adiella and Artesia will then make their bids and Snowdrift will be let loose last of all if the events are not following the script.  

There could be several variations of the script and the challengers have to be alive to different plots that may unfold and more importantly, have contingency plans to deal with them. At the end of the day, however, Robert Burns was right when he said that the best-laid schemes o' mice and men often "gang aft agley".   


We are just past the mid-point of this year's winter Classics which have been dominated so far by Kunigal Stud and Usha Stud through their stallions Burden of Proof and Multidimensional. The son of Fairy King holds the upper hand at the moment. Not many would be aware, though, that Multidimensional equalled Burden of Proof's record of siring five individual Classic winners from his first crop when Winged Foot won the Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2. Alaindair, Amelia, Striking, Artesia and Winged Foot comprise the Multidimensional quintet; Burden of Proof had Fantabulous King, Camarioca, Lindsay, Full Speed and Staranzano in his first crop.