• Lady In Lace wins The Golconda 1000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Sana wins The Calcutta 1000 Guineas (Gr.3)
  • Lady In Lace wins the Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas (Gr.1)
  • Sana wins The Calcutta Oaks (Gr.3)
  • Castlebridge wins The Jacqueline Indian 2000 Guineas (Gr.1)
  • Windsor Forest wins The Shapoorji Pallonji Oil And Gas Bangalore 1000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Aggregated wins The Calcutta Derby Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Masquerade wins The South India Oaks (Gr.1)
  • Kangra wins The South India 1000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Tutankhamun wins The South India 2000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Prevalent Force wins The Golconda 2000 Guineas (Gr.2)
  • Mahateji wins The Golconda Oaks (Gr.2)
SOUTH INDIA DERBY 2018
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Friday 12 Jan 2018
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The very first Classic to be run at Guindy was the South India Derby on the Pongal Day of 1959. It was run over 2000 m and won by Mr. M.P. Davis's Scone Stone ridden by Val Faggotter and saddled by B. K. Lagad. Scone Stone then went to Mumbai for the Indian Derby in which he was second, four lengths behind Fair Wood. It became a practice for the South India Derby winners to go for the Indian Derby as the next three winners -- Random Harvest, State Bank and Glory of Andhra -- followed suit. Neon, the first filly to win the South India Derby, did not make the trip in 1963 but Mount Everest, whom she had beaten, did. Mount Everest was beaten a neck in the Indian Derby by Rocklie;  the Derby of the controversial camera failure. Mount Everest, however, stayed on at Mahalakshmi and won the inaugural Indian Turf Invitation Cup.

With the rotating Indian Turf Invitation Cup coming on the calendar, the South India Derby winners stopped their Mumbai forays. Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's Cupid, though, ran in the Indian Derby of 1976 to establish a unique record of being the only horse to run in all the winter Derbies. In November 1979, the ace trainer Rashid Byramji migrated to Bangalore from Mumbai. That solved many logistic problems for him and brought the Classics at Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad within his ambit with his stars going on to Mumbai for the Indian Classics. That year, he took Everynsky for the Indian Derby after winning the Arc de Triomphe at Bangalore where he came up against Aristocrat who had won the South India Derby on his previous start. Both were beaten by Mohawk but the trend was set. Byramji realized that the South India Derby gave a horse more time before the Indian Derby and in the next two years he reeled off the of South India-Indian Derby double with Track Lightning and Almanac. Later, Astronomic did the same and Byramji also took his South India Derby winners Captain Eo and Maximillion to Mahalakshmi though they were not successful on the West Coast.

From 1980 to 1997, it almost became the norm for the South India Derby winner to go for the Indian Derby with only four -- Queen of the Hills, Basque, My Pet and Forest King -- not doing so. Despite many attempts by other trainers, it is only Rashid Byramji who was successful in winning both the races. Among the unsuccessful trainers was a young Darius Byramji, then just starting his career who attempted the double with Capital Risk in 1995. Capital Risk ran third at Mumbai to two horses -- Elusive Pimpernel and Mystic Memory -- who were trained by his father.

This year, Darius Byramji is back at Guindy with Prevalent Force (Multidimensional - Prevalence).  The colt, owned by the Edwards of Sri Lanka, is unbeaten in his last five starts though he had to gain one victory in the Stewards' Room on a successful objection after Tutankhamun had finished ahead of him at Malakpet in the Deccan Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3. Sunday's race was not originally on Prevalent Force's itinerary but after two scintillating wins of Lady In Lace -- whom he beat comfortably in Deccan Derby, Gr.1, the trainer has probably decided to give him more time before going to Mumbai.

That win over Lady In Lace is what sets Prevalent Force apart. The Deccan Derby was run in atrocious conditions and Lady In Lace matched strides with the colt for much of the Malakpet straight before being outstayed.  Prevalent Force's third dam Stamen was not the usual kind of mare that Usha Stud imported with its emphasis on speed. Stamen's first foal in India was a daughter of Grey Gaston called Florescence who was very speedy and she is the one responsible for keeping the line going. There is more speed than stamina in the descendants of Florescence and not one of them has won over 2400 m. Prevalent Force is inbred to full-brothers His Majesty and Graustark. Interestingly, Stamen is bred on the same lines being by a Ribot line sire from a Boudoir II family mare. The Multidimensional-Razeen cross does seem to add a stamina increment.

Prevalent Force hasn't yet raced beyond 2000 m. and he will be opposed by a pair of Pesi Shroff runners who have both won over 2400 m. on their last starts.  Masquerade (Stormy River - Fabulousday) is a course and distance winner having won the South India Oaks, Gr.1 on the New Year's day. She won well but what she beat was very ordinary, the average field rating being just 51 despite being boosted by local filly Star Portal's mark of 74. When Lord of the Sea (Dean's Kitten - Enamoured)  won the Londonderry Plate over the same distance at Mahalakshmi the average field rating was 49.2. The colt carried 2 kgs. more than the filly but won in a time that was slower by a second and change. Both Shroff's runners are bidding for a hat-trick. They have different styles of running. The filly runs up with the pace, takes command at the top of the straight and strides away. The colt comes from behind, takes a while to really shift his feet but is full of running once warmed up for the task.

We thus have a contest where Prevalent Force, the likely favourite, hasn't gone the distance against a duo who have won over the trip against very moderate opposition in a time much slower than what this race will produce. The classic conundrum between proven stamina and proven class. Prevalent Force has been ridden only by Y.S. Srinath in all his starts and the same jockey rode Masquerade when she won at Guindy. He will have a very astute idea of their relative merits. Masquerade and Lord of the Sea represent Shroff's Route 2 to Classics, bringing his hopefuls along in staying handicaps. Usually, they have been pitched in moderate contests but here they will have to tackle a proven Classic campaigner. At the moment, based on her faster timing and collateral form, the filly appears better than the colt. This is the time of the year when some horses make significant progress and only the trainer will know their standing against each other and his own pecking order.

While Pesi's Pair is simmering nicely, Prevalent Force will be running five weeks after his Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 victory. Generally, a three week gap is considered ideal. Anything longer and there is a possibility of the grass growing under the feet though Darius Byramji has had his ward out for his weekly spins. That and the fact that he will be essaying the distance for the first time are the points to be balanced against his very short odds.

Olympia Fields (Western Aristocrat - Abs Fabs) has been on the board in three Classics. His dam won the Calcutta Derby in record time but his Freshman Sire is unlikely to complement that stamina. He was well beaten by Tutankhamun on his last start -- Tutankhamun and Prevalent Force were together at the finish in Deccan Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3 -- and will need to up his game considerably to be involved in the finish. In the same race, Nilgiris Derby, Gr.1 winner Chief of Command, the solitary local runner, finished off the board. The Mysore challenger Ascendent has never been off the board but winless for eleven months and is yet to race beyond a mile while the 'got-abroad' Sea King has gone 2017 without a winning bracket after winning on his debut. Sea King may well be the pacemaker for the stablemate Olympia Fields.

PAST THE POST

The rating chart toppers have already reached a level where improvement is incremental rather than significant. Those coming up the handicap route have a greater scope for improvement. In any case, there is no thumb rule which brings class and stamina on a common platform. It is also likely that similar examples may not always produce the same results. Interestingly, both the top rated colts are likely to be at cramped odds. It is for each individual, based on his risk and reward appetite, to make their own decisions.