Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
This is the season when people exchange greetings - cards, SMSs, tweets and so on - so it is appropriate to wish all readers - or is it viewers ? A very happy 2014.
January 1 is also very important in the horse world in the Northern Hemisphere because on that day all Thoroughbreds become a year older. A filly born on January 1, 2013 and a colt 'dropped' on December 27, 2013 will both become yearlings on January 1, 2014. They, of course, are unaware of it and must be mildly annoyed by all the honking which takes place at midnight. But just imagine what it would be like if they were aware. A combined, coordinated neighing by over a thousand horses at Mahalakshmi will drown all honking on Hornby Vellard!
The official racing year, as enshrined in the Rules of Racing in India, used to run from April 1 to March 31. It had nothing to do with the accounts but was just a relic of the British Raj which continued almost till the end of 20th century. The racing year in England ran from April 1 to March 31 and there was a reason behind it because in the old days there was no flat racing in England during the winter months and the new crop started racing from April onwards. As with many other things, we copied the English practice though for a long, long time there was no two-year old racing in India and we continued with it even after it was introduced in the 1930s. Fortunately, the current Rules do not mention any Racing Year. Better late than never.
In India, the two year-olds begin racing in November and November 1 to October 31 is the real racing year. Fonn & Co, which has been assiduously publishing the All India Racing Record, displayed much foresight in adopting those dates for the Racing Year. The Stud Book Department's annual statistics are based on those dates and the Turf Authorities, too, make their annual awards keeping that period of time in mind.
The first All India Racing Record was published in 1916 so Fonn & Co. is on the verge of a century of exemplary service to the industry. It is rare to find mistakes in their publications and it is hoped that its efforts find a suitable recognition at the appropriate time.
Two very significant landmarks in the breeding annals were reached recently, both to the credit of the same stud farm. The first came on November 23 at Calcutta and the second two days later at Hyderabad. The leading stud farms have their websites on which they are not really coy about proclaiming their achievements. That being so, it is a bit galling that the concerned stud farm's website makes no mention of these achievements, though more than a month has passed. (And that, of course, leads to a doubt that its counting is better!)
Striking’s victory in the Calcutta 1000 Guineas, Gr.3 was 300th Classic recorded by an Usha-bred making that nursery only the second in India - after Poonawalla Farms - to get to that figure. Usha Stud's first Classic winner Manitou came at Bangalore in 1977. Manitou was also the first ever foal born at the Usha Stud. Usha Stud got to its century in 1991 and to its double century in 2001. The third hundred has come faster than the first but the second was the fastest.
When Apparition won the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2, she provided Razeen his 50th win as a broodmare sire. Razeen is the first stallion in the country to reach a half century through his daughters. He is also the only stallion with a century of classic from his own 'gets'. What a phenomenal achievement!
Well done, Razeen! Well done, Usha Stud!!
Charlatan's Calcutta 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 was the first in Dr. Vijay Mallya's colours and it enabled the owner to reach a landmark. With that win, Dr. Mallya has now won every Classic in India at least once other than the Nilgiris Classics. Only Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy has the enviable record of having won every Classic; including the Nilgiris Classics.
By the way, how is it that every race caller has the exact number of Classics won in the gold-and-brown colours? Have you ever heard a commentator mentioning Razeen's 100th win or Byramji's 200th win? Sponsorship is good for racing but not when it extends to commentators.
The 2009 crop contained 1673 foals and 111 of them were 'got-abroads'. Six of the 'got-abroads' - Vijays Pride, Machiavellianism, Borsalino, An Acquired Taste, Red Baron and Tintinnabulation - won 14 of the 30 Classics run at Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Mysore and Pune. Their domination was complete. Surprisingly, their dams were not expensive buys. The Padmanabhans owned Running Flame, the dam of Borsalino while An Acquired Taste's dam was purchased privately. Machiavellianism's dam was picked up at Kenneland for $ 7,500; the other three mares were bought at Goffs November 2008 Sale and they, too, did not cost much. Tintinnabulation's dam made just € 8,000; Designer Chic, the dam of Vijays Pride was knocked down for €10,500 while Kon Tiki, whose son Red Baron won the Bangalore Derby, Gr.1, was a bit dearer at €28,000.
Where that crop disappointed most was in the fact that its form seemed to go topsy-turvy. Only seven of the 30 races were won by favourites. Tintinnabulation did beat older horses in the Invitation Cup but otherwise it was tough to get better of their seniors in terms races.
Danzig line stallions were responsible for Vijays Pride, Borsalino. Equine Lover, Maple Star and Red Baron while three sons of Fairy King - Burden of Proof, Oath and Royal Kingdom - had Classic winners in Chase The Sun, Jersey Girl, Snow Bird and Maximus. The Northern Dancer male line continued to hold sway.
The Paul Mellon-bred Roberto horse Red Ransom won his both races at 2 - neither of them black-type - and after one start at 3 in which he was second, was retired to Vinery Stud in Kentucky. He began his stud career with a modest four-figure covering fee but as he continued to churn out stakes winners, it rose rapidly. At his peak, he went upto $ 75,000 a cover. He later moved to Dalham Hall Stud and shuttled to Vinery Australia. He was put down due complications following an intestinal surgery. He was a high class stallion with over a hundred stakes winners.
What is remarkable about Red Ransom is the impact he had on the Indian Classic scene in 2012-13. His son China Visit came up with Snowscape (Eveready Calcutta Derby, Gr.1) and Silverina (Calcutta St. Leger, Gr.3) while another son - Intikhab -- was responsible for Tintinnabulation (Vijay Textiles Golconda Derby, Gr.1, Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2 and Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2). He was also the damsire of Vijays Pride (Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1, Gitanjali Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1, Golconda 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and DBA Hyderabad Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.3), Machiavellianism (Bangalore Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.1, Nakshatra Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1 and DBA Hyderabad Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3) and Red Baron (Bangalore Derby, Gr.1). His shadow fell on 13 Classics and that is stupendous for a stallion standing abroad.
A record number of 22 stallions went to stud in 2010 and 20 of them had foals on ground in 2011 that are the current 2-year-olds. The new sires have been quick to make their mark and many as 11 have had a winner before Christmas. That is an impressive achievement.
Kingda Ka set the ball rolling with Romeo in September at Pune. He has a winner at Bangalore and Hyderabad and heads the list. Dashmesh Stud's Sunday Silence horse Win Legend also has three wins, all at Calcutta, but only two winners, Azienda winning twice. Other Freshman sires with two winners are Tariq, C.P. West, Roi Maudit and Top Class whose two have come at Delhi while the other three have had winners at two different tracks. Equitable, West Virginia, Chevalier, Dancing Forever and Chinese Whisper are other new stallions with winners. Chevalier, of course, has had winners in India before, but they were imported 'in utero'. All in all, this lot of stallions seems to be precocious - even if some of them are not bred to be so - if early indications are anything to go by.
PAST THE POST
In some ways, this has been a very sad year for the Indian breeding industry with the shocking story of one of the oldest, most respected and successful stud farms not so long ago with nearly 100 Classic wins to its credit leaving its horses hungry, uncared for and destitute. There can be no excuses but in extenuation it has to be said that the real culprits - owners who buy on credit and then default on payment that need to be identified and put on a black list, too. There are some very affluent and influential people in that list.
Breeding follows economic cycles. Over-production, such as we are experiencing now, leads to a glut in the market, falling prices and a depression. The 2011 crop, current 2-year-olds, numbered 1902 foals which is the highest ever number in India. That was the year a record number of 264 mares were imported. For a country whose annual requirement is about 1300-1400 foals, that is way too much. Unfortunately, no one wants to read the graffiti. This year, 1727 foals were born (there were 1810 in 2012) and a downward trend is visible. We have gone in for cosmetic surgery when a ruthless amputation was required.