• Ruffina wins The Sprinters Cup (Gr.1)
  • Azzurro wins The Dr M A M Ramaswamy Stayers Cup (Gr.1)
  • Whomakestherules wins The Maj P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr.1)
  • Kangra wins The Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) in record timing
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Saturday 05 Nov 2016
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

(Based on a points formula approved by Turf Authorities of India)

Rank Stum Farm Ordinary Race
Black-Type Races
Total Points Starters Stakes Earned Ae Index
1 Kunigal 180 648 828 221 Rs. 19,83,39,927 2.13
2 Usha/Mehra 157 572 729 203 Rs. 17,15,60,732 2.00
3 Nanoli 196 343 539 261 Rs. 13,56,20,352 1.23
4 Manjri 310 213 52 264 Rs.  13,19,10,318 1.08
5 Poonawalla Farms 204 296 500 382 Rs, 15,02,02,506 0.93

What a glorious year it has been for the Kunigal Stud Farm !  In September, the oldest nursery in the country notched up its 100th Classic win and it has ended the year with a mighty bang winning its first ever Champion Stud Farm title. Burden of Proof, who died after the 2016 covering season was over, finished as the Champion Sire.
Kunigal has had purple years in the past and may have finished on top either in Rough Deal's year (1955) or in 1959 when Fair Wood won the Indian Derby but statistics of those years are not available. It is only in the last 25 years or so that the Stud Book Authority of India started maintaining proper statistics. That also coincides roughly with Dr. Vijay Mallya taking over the Kunigal Stud from B.T.C. Ltd. Even the most renowned of football managers are unable to wave a magic wand and show immediate positive results when they are bought in to take charge of ailing teams. Breeding is, perhaps, much more complex and it was to be 1998-99 -- Saddle Up's year -- before we witnessed signs of Kunigal bestirring itself. Then, in 2003-04, Burden of Proof finished as the Champion Freshman Sire and hauled Kunigal into the top five for the first time. Further administrative changes meant that there was another brief slump before Kunigal was again at No. 5 in 2007-08. Since then, barring the year 2011-12, it has maintained its position in the leading quintet, its third spot in 2013-14 being the best of them all. Last year, Kunigal was fourth; this year it has leap-frogged to the very top.
This has been a start to finish victory with Usha/Mehra Studs chasing in vain throughout. At the end of the first quarter, Kunigal led by 49 points which was extended to 83 points at the halfway stage. Kunigal entered the fourth and final quarter with a handy lead of 114 points but after Whomakestherules and Star Nijinsky won two Derbies on the first two days of October, it had been whittled down to around 60. Champions always pull out something extra when pressed and that is exactly what Kunigal did. Victories of Accolade (Kingfisher Ultra Pune Derby, Gr.1) and Cameron (Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2) sealed the issue and in the end the winning margin was a comfortable 99 points.
The star for Kunigal this year was undoubtedly Desert God. The son of Burden of Proof was unbeaten in his nine starts -- eight of them black-type races -- and contributed a whopping 270 points to Kunigal's tally.  It is quite likely that he may spread his wings and actually head for further horizons. It is ironical that Desert God's dam was bred at Usha Stud. Apart from Desert God, two other Burden of Proofs -- New Alliance and Brilliant Cut -- won Classics in colours others than white, black V, red cap. The best of homebreds in the Classic generation for URBB was the filly Cameron (by Admiralofthefleet). Older horses like the 'got-abroad' Azzurro and Acclaimed were expertly placed to get the best out of them and keep the points coming in. Accolade was the best of 2013 Kunigal crop and he shapes as a leading contender for the winter plums.
Since 2012-13, no stud farm has won the championship in consecutive years and that will certainly be the target for Kunigal in 2016-17. Others, of course, will be all out to deny Kunigal an encore. For the moment, though, we must concentrate on Kunigal and proffer the thoroughly deserved encomium. It was indeed a team effort with the breeding and racing arms of URBB working in sync to script the title assault. In the URBB era at Kunigal, only Usha Stud and Poonawalla Farms have had more Classic wins while in the last four years Kunigal and Usha are equal as far as Classic wins are concerned, much ahead of Poonawalla Group. Desert God's possible foreign foray will deprive Kunigal of its shining light and affect its next year's tally of points. In his absence, Accolade will have a big burden to carry and his progress will be crucial to Kunigal's chances of holding on to the title. Accolade, however, will need all the help he can get and hopefully, some of his batch will step up during the winter season to Classic level. The performance of the 2014 crop will also be significant. That crop has 43 Burden of Proofs -- as against 32 Multidimensionals -- which will enable Kunigal to start with a slight -- but definite -- numerical advantage. On the flip side, China Visit has 19 juveniles about to start racing whereas Admiralofthefleet has only four.
Usha Stud put up a gallant fight but in the end its Classic crop let it down. Myrtlewood, who had a splendid winter campaign, contributed just two points to Usha's tally during the Pune season while Multitude and Setaflame could have been better exploited to garner a few black-type points over the summer and monsoon seasons instead remaining in Calcutta. The juvenile crop -- La Dona, Aster Rose, Star Nijinsky and Whomakestherules, etc -- will be approaching the coming winter's campaign with much anticipation.  Usha Stud has been very consistent all along -- the only stud in the country never to have been out of the top four -- and is always a formidable foe.
Nanoli's third position is 2002-03 suggested better things to come. It did hold a top four position for some years after that but failed to be in the leading quintet this decade. King Charles, Woman of War and Sergeant At Arms have enabled it finish third this year. Next year, it will be heavily dependent on Serjeant At Arms.to keep it in the fighting line. Besides, it has downsized its operation of late.   Manjri Stud, after finishing third in 2006-07 -- Diabolical's year --, slipped to lower rungs. Its fourth position this year owes largely to the consistent performance of Phoenix Tower throughout the year. If the son of Chester House comes up with a better strike rate at Classic level, it will keep Manjri in the fray.
After dethroning the Champion in 2012-13, Hazara Stud added another title in 2014-15. This year it finds itself out of the top five. A major reason for Hazara's rise  has been the success of its 'got-abroads'. There is no outstanding 'got-abroad' 3YO and with just about 60 mares imported in 2014, the chances are that the juvenile crop which has just started racing will be hard pressed to come up with a Be Safe or a Quasar. So Hazara Stud will be reliant on the last crops of Rebuttal and Dancing Forever. Sohna Stud, a name often in the top five, will look to first crop of Dean's Kitten to haul it back into the limelight while the passing away of its principal patron has seen Chettinad/Sholavaram lose its regular top five position..
Since losing its pre-eminent position in 2012013, Poonawalla Group haven't finished in the top three. As it is, it was the victory of Ice Glacier at the fag end of the season which enabled a fifth place finish this year, edging out Hazara Stud by a mere six points. The slide can be attributed directly to the failure of two consecutive stallions -- Ace and Arazan -- to make an impact at the highest level. Excellent Art is destined to finish as the Champion Freshman Sire next year but so did Ace and Arazan. For Poonawalla Farms to be challenging for the top honours, Ice Glacier will need to emulate In The Spotlight and Excellent Art to prove a big improvement on Ace and Arazan.However, one good crop alone is rather insufficient to win the Championship.
In India, a stallion covers, almost exclusively, only the mares resident at the stud he is standing. Deaths and cullings deplete a broodmare band by about 10 % but that it usually replenished by new mares of a comparable quality. The change of a stallion, however, alters the equation dramatically. "Bull" Hancock's famous saying bears a repetition in this context -- "A good stallion is half the herd; a bad stallion is the whole herd".