• 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.)
Thursday 12 Jun 2014
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

Once again we are on the threshold of the start of a new Classic year. Admittedly, three Classics for the 2011 crop have already been run at Udhagamandalam. Winners of those races, however, are unlikely to have any impact beyond St. Thomas's Mount and other than a diehard punter, most other aficionados of racing in India are unlikely to know their names. To the cognoscenti, Sunday's race kick starts the Classic trail and sets adrenaline pumping.

It is indeed a race worthy of looking forward to as over the years, it has showcased a debutante who went on to become a prima donna. In the last ten years alone, six winners of the event - Haunting Memories, Set Alight, Jacqueline, Siachen, Vijays Pride and Amelia have followed up with one or more Gr.1 victories while Moonlight Romance, who had run second to Siachen, etched her name in stone by becoming the first filly to bag the grand treble of Derby Bangalore, Indian Derby and the Invitation Cup. Worryingly, though, it not a race for favourites with just three fillies carrying the public purse successfully. During the same period, three 'got-abroads' - Alvarita, Jacqueline and Vijays Pride have won and the same number -  Lindsay (Burden of Proof), Lovely Kiss (Rebuttal) and Amelia (Multidimensional) were sired by first season sires.

The 2011 crop numbered 1902 foals and was the largest ever born in India. The previous year, as many as 264 horses were imported including 256 mares most of which were pregnant, and they duly 'dropped' their foals in the following year to add to the overall numbers. Thus it goes without saying that this year's Classics will be the most competitive at least as far as the numbers go and the 'got-abroads' hold an upper hand. The 2009 crop which had a shade over 6 % 'got-abroads' which included the likes of Tintinnabulation, Vijays Pride, Machiavellianism, An Acquired Taste and others, simply ran riot. There is almost double the percetage of 'got-abroads' in the 2011 crop.

At the Acceptance stage, there are 16 fillies still left-in which is one more than the number that actually ran in 2013.  They include four 'got-abroads', five who had not raced during the current season, one who has have won over a mile, one black-type winner, a maiden and filly who has not been seen under the silks so far. The average rating of the field last year was 56; this year it is down to a shade under 44.  No filly stands out and with scattered showers forecast for Sunday, it is race a beset with traps. 

Having trained three winners - Set Alight, Jacqueline and Amelia of the race in the last ten years, Pesi Shroff has the best record among the handlers. Team Shroff this year consists of two  'got-abroads' - Maisha, who is the highest rated runner in the field, and Tiger Tops. Two of Shroff's three previous winners went into the race with only a mock race proper as did Alvarita, the other Western India-based winner of the last ten years.

Like Set Alight, Shroff started Maisha in the Million in May but she found a real cracker in Be Safe.  Maisha (Footstepsinthesand - My Pension) has two wins from five starts. She has been twice beaten by Be Safe and once by Shivalik Storm. Be Safe and Shivalik Storm, of course, were involved in a close finish in the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 so Maisha has run in very good company indeed. Her sire won the ultimatepoker.com Two Thousand Guineas, Gr.1 at Newmarket, entered the Coolmore Stud in 2005 and the fact that he is still there shows the esteem in which he is held. He has sired Gr.1 winners abroad even if his overall record is a bit 'light' by Coolmore standards. Maisha's grey dam raced in Italy where she won six races, three of them over a mile, and placed third in Listed Premio Pisa (1500 m.). This is a  good American family though My Pension's immediate line has been domiciled in France. Maisha has not won beyond 1200 m. but the overall pedigree suggests that a mile is well within her compass. Maisha was well beaten by Be Safe last month in Bangalore. She may have been out to just stretch her limbs and has since run over Tiger Tops in morning work last Sunday.

Tiger Tops (Tiger Hill - Cockayne) is the only black-type winner in the race having won the Forbes Breeders' Juvenile Fillies' Championship, Gr.3 over a mile at Mahalakshmi and is unbeaten in two starts. Tiger Hill's splendid success in Germany as a sire earned him a place at Darley in England where the Prince of Wales's Stakes, Gr.1 winner Rewilding was his outstanding 'get'. He returned to Gestut Fahrhof where he died a couple of years ago. Like Maisha's dam, Cockayne raced in Italy where her four wins included a victory in Premio Andred, L over 2200 m. Tiger Tops is bred on the very successful Danehill-Sadler's Wells cross and comes from a Classic English family best known in India for the erstwhile Doaba Stud stallion Everyday II. Cockayne's catalogue page shows two outstanding fillies in the dual Oaks winner Sariska and the Prix Vermeille victress Pearly Shells. Maisha may have shown her a clean pair of heels in the last workout but unless one has seen that piece of work it is hard to say how earnest Tiger Tops was.

The other 'got-abroads' in the field are Pure Allure (Giacomo - Personal Allure) trained by Padmanabhan and Leo D'Silva's Alameda (Amadeus Wolf - Bombala). Personal Allure was bought by Neutral Stud at the Keeneland's November Sale in 2010 for just US $ 10,000 in foal to the Kentucky Derby,Gr.1 winner Giacomo. Pure Allure was born on 15 Apr 2011. Five months later, Personal Allure's 2007 foal Turallure (by Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando) won the Woodbine Mile Stakes, Gr.1 and went on place 2nd in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile Gr.1 to Court Vision with the great Goldikova in third. That increased Personal Allure's value enormously and she duly moved south from Punjab to Poonawalla Farms. Pure Allure is a winner of her only start over 1100 m. during the winter season. No trainer in India has perhaps had the success with 'got-abroads' as Padmanabhan and this filly has all the credentials to do well. At the moment, though, lack of experience may be her drawback.

Alameda's dam raced just thrice at 3 in the Maktoum colours in the French Provinces and she got her number on board in her last start over 2500 m. Not surprising since she is a half sister the staying Godolphin horse New South Wales, one of whose four wins was over 3000 m. Bambola's visit to the sprinter Amadeus Wolf may have been arranged to instill speed in a staying line (this is the Horama family of Epsom Derby winners Teenoso and Sir Percy) but such fish-and-fowl matings rarely achieve the desired blend.

Multidimensional, whose first crop was nothing short of sensational, has so far been rather lukewarm with his second. He is represented by Godspeed (out of Almandine), a winner of both her races so far, who has the makings of a Classic filly, especially over longer distances. Almandine goes back to C.Major who came to Usha Stud in 1973 and Classic winners like Prima Facie, C. Minor, Legal Steps, Ace of Diamonds, Maribella, Ruby Queen and Riyasat are  from her clan as is the dual Sprinter's Cup, Gr.1 winner Nefyn. Godspeed is trained by Mallesh Narredu who has won two of the three black-type races during the current Bangalore season and the stable is in red-hot form. She has been systematically tracked and has had a mock race. She may come a cropper against specialist milers but is a good filly to follow. 

Alexandra Mills (Ace - Caractere) will have her fans and she has a good rating. Her dam is a full-sister to Speed Six and Haunting Memories who were tried over much longer distances before eventually showing that pure sprinting was their forte. Ace has not so far suggested that he is a stamina influence. With well over 50 Classic winners to his credit, Darius Byramji ranks high among the ranks of current trainers though his last big winner came nearly five years ago at Calcutta.

Schiavone (Burden of Proof - Sabre Dance) is a full-sister to Classic milers in Fleeting Arrow and Mariinsky. Short on experience,she can be trusted to give her best. However, a victory for either of them will be a major surprise and a winning run by any of the fillies not mentioned here will be a rude shock.


The first running of this race took place in 1959 when Raja of Nazargunj's Rising Bell went first past the post. The following year, she won the Calcutta Derby, Gr.1. The owner retained her for breeding and after a visit to Glasgow Paddock  at Broadacres Stud, the mare produced a filly. The breeders decided to race her and named her Rising Star who went on to win the Calcutta 1000 Guineas and Calcutta Oaks.

Rising Bell thus set the standard. Winners of this race have not only earned further laurels in the winter but have also excelled at stud. 18 winners of Bangalore's first ever Classic have subsequently produced a Classic winner. Beginning with Rising Bell, the others who have done so are Om-Sakthi, Rock Haven, Fire Haven, Sweet Memories, Blue Ice, Birthday Girl, Camineto, Eminence, Chaitanya Ratham, Divine Light, Ministrella, Summer Dust, Mystic Memory, Santorini Star, Wandering Star, Averoff and Snow Dew.