• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Wednesday 26 Feb 2014
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The Super Mile Cup was the last of the Gr.1 invitation races to be introduced and it was run for the first time at Hyderabad in 1983.  R.R. Byramji-trained Camino (S. Craine) was the first winner of the race. A pipping hot favourite, he was easy to spot in the all-red colours of the Khatau family as he led from the off and was never caught. For some inexplicable, unstated reason, the race was not run in 1989 at Mumbai and the following year at Calcutta. From 2002 onwards, the race has been sponsored by Usha Stud in the memory of its founder, the late Maj. P.K.Mehra.

In 1985, Dallas Todywalla sent out Bergamo to win the Sprinters' Cup on Saturday and followed it up with the Super Mile on Sunday to register the first double of the Invitation Cup week-end. Like Camino, Bergamo was initially owned by the Khataus and trained by Byramji. The Brars of Dashmesh Stud bought him after he broke down and gave him to Todywalla who had just moved to Calcutta after starting his career in Delhi. Bergamo gave Todywalla a spectacular start. He was the favourite in both the races of his double and broke the track record on both the days with Antia riding him on Saturday and Shroff taking over on Sunday. The double has been registered just once since then.That was in 2002 at Bangalore when the Farajullah gelding Strengthtostrength, piloted by the French jockey C. Lemaire, scored on both the days. Bred and owned by Maj. B.P.Singh, Strengthtostrength was trained by Rehanullah Khan to land a 72/1 double. 

There are five common entries this year in the Sprinters' Cup and the Super Mile comprising of three fillies - Amelia, Mariinsky and Rosie Sunshine - and a pair of locally-trained half-brothers, Always Bullish and Kohinoor Wish. All five may not accept for both the races and even those that do could opt out after Saturday's sprint. 

The Super Mile is a good race for the Classic generation as it has claimed 15 of the 29 renewals. It is not a good race for favourites, though, as only nine of them have obliged in 29 renewals with four coming good in the last ten years. At Malakpet, just two favourites have won in seven runnings. There are 18 horses invited for the race and of them it is likely that Storm Tracker will prefer to run over 1400 m. in the Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, Gr.3. Mariinsky is set to attempt the double while Amelia is likely to be aimed only for this race. It is still a classy field with nine Classic winning milers/Gr.1 winners in the fray and 13 runners with a rating in three figures. What will add further intrigue is that D. Netto could well have three runners while S.S. Attaolahi, Pesi Shroff and Arjun Mangalorkar may be fielding a brace each and three horses carrying the Mallya colours. A crystal ball will be necessary to ascertain the pecking order. 


The Classic vintage, though, is outnumbered 8 to 10 by older horses. Since the start of the winter season in November, only one member of the Classic generation has won two Classics consecutively. That is Mariinsky who won the Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and followed it up with a victory in the Deltin Casinos Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1. No filly has the Sprinters'-Super Mile double to her credit and she is taking on a lot by attempting to do so. She undoubtedly has the class but running two Gr.1 races in two days is a very tough ask; especially for a filly who may be better over 1400 m. rather than a mile. 

Mariinsky was beaten in Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 during the summer by Amelia who went on to bag the Deccan Bookmakers' Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.3 to give her a course and distance win. She was a faller in Mariinsky's race at Mahalakshmi. She showed that the mishap had left no scars by coming out and winning two good sprints with a gap of just eight days between the races. Mariinsky, after having run into serious traffic snags in the latter race, finished just half a length behind her. The Handicapper rates Amelia two points higher and their head-to-head score is 2-2. Mariinsky would have run the day before whereas Amelia will be fresh on Sunday. Her dam won this very race in 2001. Incidentally, she enjoys the highest rating in the field other than the likely absentee Storm Tracker.  

If the Eveready Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 winner Snowdrift accepts here, he will add much firepower to Classic crop's challenge. Snowdrift went into the Calcutta Derby with a win in the Calcutta Gold Cup, Gr.2 (mile) in which he beat accomplished older horses (including Ocean and Beyond), albeit at a considerable weight advantage. He was narrowly beaten by Ocean and Beyond in the Indian Champion Cup, Gr.1 (2000 m.) at less favourable weights after the Derby to show his improvement. His grey half-brother Snowscape found a winning turn only when brought back to a mile after having won the Derby earlier. This particular branch of the family has had some real top quality milers and Snowdrift has a better chance of winning this race than the Invitation Cup. 

The Calcutta form took a bit of a battering when Striking was beaten in the North India Derby, Gr.3. The filly, however, had an excuse of having been in season that day. Her stablemate Charlatan floundered in the Derby at Calcutta, the distance obviously a bit too long for him as presaged by his pedigree. He is a game horse who will be at home over a mile. However, both Striking and Charlatan are rated in double figures and will need to show dramatic improvement. Rosie Sunshine has won five races over 1200 m. and is yet to race over a mile. She could well run on Saturday and then opt out on Sunday. Czar of Romance and Galiat are the other two members of the Classic crop. The Czar is a bit like Charlatan in every respect though he did run a better race behind Agostini in the Bangalore Derby, Gr.1.  


Though the older horses hold a numeric advantage at this stage, things could even out by post time. Storm Tracker is likely to run elsewhere while Always Bullish, Kohinoor Wish and Super Storm hold other invitations. Against the five Gr.1/mile Classic winners in the younger brigade's ranks, the older horses can muster up four - Machiavellianism, Immense, Super Storm and Equine Lover.  

Super Storm is yet to win a race after annexing the McDowell Signature Premier Indian Derby, Gr.1 last year and it is unlikely that he can win a high profile contest such as this. Machiavellianism was the star miler of his crop - with the filly Vijays Pride in close contention - and it was unfortunate that he broke a blood vessel in Super Storm's race. Arktouros would have found him a handful in the form he was then in. It is roughly six months since he last won but that is partially explained by the heavy imposts he has hefted. What's more, he has never been too far behind the winner. He is certain to make his presence felt. 

Immense, a winner of the Deccan Bookmakers' Hyderabad Colts' Trial Stakes, Gr.3, returns to the scene of his Classic triumph. Last year, he was third to Arktouros and Ranthambore in the Super Mile at Calcutta but that was a rather lukewarm field. The task here is going to be much tougher as it will be for Equine Lover. Equine Lover has five wins against her name but only one over a mile which came when she won the Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3. Her trainer is very adept at targeting horses for big races and big occasions and that will stand the daughter of Ace in good stead. 

They don't come any hardier than Kohinoor Wish. The 7YO gelding has been with five different trainers, has run 41 times, been on board on 38 times and won a whopping 19 races. His pet distance is 1400 m. over which he has 8 wins with 5 winning brackets over a mile as well as 1200 m. He attempted the double at Calcutta last year, running third in the sprint and fifth in the mile not far behind the winner. His zest for racing is to be admired. His younger half-brother Always Bullish, too, seems most comfortable over 1400 m. over which he has won thrice. His other four wins are equally divided between a mile and the sprint. Blue Sonata, their dam, must be a very prepotent mare to have begot such a tough and talented duo from good but not outstanding sires in Storm Trooper (sire of Always Bullish) and Gaswar (sire of Kohinoor Wish).   

After poor efforts in the Indian Derby and the Invitation Cup last year, Supreme Star has shown improved and consistent form around a mile. Ridgeway, like Immense, is trained by Arjun Mangalorkar. On his last start over a mile, Ridgeway finished ahead of Equine Lover, Super Storm and Immense though earlier the last named seemed to have his measure. The other runner is Nasheeta who is with D. Netto like Always Bullish and Galiat. 


Hyderabad has seen eight Invitation Cups previously and 21 Gr.1 races over the week-end. So far, a Hyderabadi has not had the privilege and the pleasure of applauding a locally-trained winner. Will the jinx continue or break this year? 

In the last ten years - except once - at least one of the Gr.1 invitation races over the week-end has been won by the clear favourite. The exception came in 2010 when Maseeha, the Stayers' Cup winner, was a joint-favourite at 11/4 with Conceptual who finished second.