• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Monday 03 Nov 2014
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

Usha Stud wrested back the Champion Stud Farm honours for the year 2013-14 and did so with a fair amount of comfort. It had a healthy lead going into the last quarter and the title was its to lose. There were no last minute alarms and, in fact, Usha Stud had a good last quarter, garnering more black-type points than any of its rivals.   It was back in 2004-05 that Usha Stud had last won the honours. That was the year when Southern Regent won the Indian Derby and the Invitation Cup. This year Alaindair did the same.   

During the eight years that the top honours eluded it, was always thereabouts. Thrice it had finished second, four times it was third and once fourth. In 2010-11, when Moonlight Romance bagged the Indian Derby-Invitation Cup double, Usha Stud had a good lead going into the last quarter. Moonlight Romance and Xisca, the two leading Usha runners, did not run in the last quarter, the Poonawalla Farms mounted a sustained challenge and the result of the Mysore Derby, Gr.1 (won by Field Marshal with Southern Bay third) meant that the Theur nursery pipped the long time leader on the post. The winning margin was a bare 10 points. 

The final standings for 2013-14 (only the top ten) are:- 

      Black-Type Ordinary Races Total
1.   (+2) Usha/Mehra 236 694 201 895
2.   (-1) Hazara 172 474 167 641
3.   (+2) Kunigal 217 447 177 640
4.   (=) Poonawalla Group 362 276 329 605
5.   (-3)   Chettinad/Sholavaram 172 280 302 600
6.   (+3) Manjri 222 169 166 335
7.   (-1) Sohna 238 123 207 330
8.   (-1) Nanoli 215 108 166 274
9.   (+4) Dashmesh/Hargobind 176 44 185 229
10.  (-2) Chanhill/Capricorn 176 57 152 199

The above table clearly suggests that Usha Stud ran out a very clear winner. The next four were fairly closely huddled, well behind the winner. The second five were way off the pace. Nine of the top ten retained their membership of the elite group while Dashmesh/Hargobind broke into it at the cost of Jai-Govind. 

There have been no major management or infrastructure changes at Usha Stud and its clinching the top spot is entirely due to the exploits of its new stallion Multidimensional who, deservedly, ends the year as the Champion Sire. It once again brings home the important role a stallion plays in the fortunes of a stud farm in India. This is Usha Stud's sixth championship. 

Last year, Hazara Stud broke the hegemony of Poonawalla Group and Usha Stud and became the first farm to finish on top other than the perennial two. This year, it has slipped a rung below. Hazara Stud's success last year and its high rank this year owes much to its 'got-abroads'. Hazara Stud imports liberally every year. For it to be consistently vying for top honours, its results with horses conceived and born at Hazara has to step up. Otherwise, like Sohna Stud, it will be prone to inconsistency. From all accounts, Hazara Stud has vast acreage of ideal horse-rearing land so the basic infrastructure is there. 

Kunigal Stud was pipped by just one point for the runner-up birth and while that would be disheartening, it can seek cheer from the fact that it ended the year in its highest position ever. Till Spreadeagle came along, Kunigal's juvenile cupboard appeared bereft of goodies so the third spot is commendable. Besides, in Amazing Grace the stud can boast of the highest rated horse in India. The farm, however, is on the threshold of a transitional period with Burden of Proof getting on years and Admiralofthefleet departing even before his progeny saw the tracks in India. Air Support would be under much pressure three years hence. 

Poonawalla Group, deposed last year after seven consecutive championships, maintain status quo in the fourth spot. Just as Multidimensional's positive contribution has enabled Usha Stud to scale the summit, the lukewarm record of Ace has been a major factor in the slump the Poonawalla Group is facing. There is nothing outstanding or exciting in its three year-old crop and while Arazan could set it on the recovery path, championship in 2014-15 seems too tall an order. 

Multidimensional's second crop is not a patch on his first and Usha Stud, which has trimmed its broodmare band, won't find it easy to prolong its stay in the pole position. We could be entering a period where the top four or five farms play musical chairs. That is preferable to the bi-polar monopoly that had been the feature of our breeding scene for almost two decades.   


The Championship is decided by a formula that has been approved by the Turf Authorities of India. That formula is arbitrary as well as illogical and it favours mediocrity over excellence. 

One point is awarded for winning an ordinary race, two additional points for winning a race where the stakes are Rs. 5 lakhs or more, 10 for winning a Gr.3 race, 20 for a Gr.2 race and 30 for a Gr.1 race. There are also points for placing in black-type races and bonus points for winning some prestigious races. 

On the face of it, it looks an objective, impartial way of deciding the Champion Stud. However, study the points table and you will notice that it has been skewed to favour larger numbers. The international racing pattern is based on some parameters and these parameters have been ignored in allocation of points. Only one race in 33 races run can be a black-type race. So, if an ordinary race gets one point, it is logical assume that a Gr.3 race gets 33 points. Similarly, the relation between the Group races is structured in the ratio 2:3:5. That is to say that out of 10 Group races only 2 can be Gr.1 races, 3 Group 2 races and 5 Group 3 races. If this logic is further extended to points you can work out how many points a stud farm should get for winning a Gr.1 race. 

Every year, about 3500 races are run India. That's about 3500 points for ordinary races. The total number of black-type points, including points for placings, does not exceed that figure.   

Since this formula has been adopted, there have been two instances when the Championship has gone to a stud farm on the basis of higher number of ordinary races won while a stud farm with higher number of black-type points has had to sit in the wings. Racing, it is often said is meritocracy; not democracy. Excellence should be rewarded; not mediocrity. 

The ones who are most concerned are the breeders themselves but it is harder to find a more apathetic group when it comes to doing something for the industry as a whole. They have been content to accept arbitrary rulings and systematic exploitation of flaws in the existing system (which made Always A Rainbow the Champion Sire four times in five years) rather than seek a refinement of the system. 

Usha Stud has this year deservedly won the award. It will be fitting if Usha Stud leads a campaign for a better, more rational system. After all, no one will accuse it of sour grapes if it does so.