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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 18 Jan 2014 | HYDERABAD

Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

The satchelmen of Malakpet are obviously doing well because they have come forward to sponsor three winter Classics. Before this, they have had a very long and continuing association with the Hyderabad Fillies' Championship Stakes and Hyderabad Colts' Championship Stakes stretching back to 1985. Doing well is one thing; putting back the money through sponsorship is another. The Deccan Bookmakers need to be applauded for their munificence and express the hope that their example is followed by their counterparts at other centres.

Past records show that the raiders have always enjoyed an upper hand, winning roughly two of every three renewals. Last year, Tintinnabulation did the home team proud. Big Deal (1982), Deccan Prince (1983) and Deccan Star (1984), all three of them chestnuts, recorded a hat-trick of local wins but since then there hasn't been even a single back to back double.

The raiders, who are only marginally outnumbered at 6 to 7 by local forces, must be descending on Malakpet licking their chops and rubbing their hands in glee. More so because Fastest Finger, the easy winner of the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 and star of home team, is missing from the line-up.  The linchpin of the raiding forces, coming northwards from Bangalore, is obviously Southern Emperor (Placerville - Mystic Dancer). The gelding was unbeaten at Mysore as he registered a hat-trick of wins - the Mysore Million, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Golf Course Mysore 2000 Guineas,Gr.2 and the Mysore Derby, Gr.1 and had emerged as clearly the horse to look out for in the winter. Installed as the favourite for the Dr. P. Dayanand Pai and Mr. P. Satish Pai Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2,  trainer Ganapathy's ward was a huge disappointment, finishing second to Turf Striker. There had been whispers that had not been well with him as he went into that race without a prep run. The fears proved well founded for he failed to get a blow at the winner.

If he has recovered, he will be hard to beat for he has a pedigree made for this kind of a race. He is by Placerville - second only to Razeen - out of a full sister to Mystical. Pedigrees in India don't get better than that. The "if", however, is all important. Classic horses who have had a setback often need time to return to their best and if at short odds, he is hardly a betting proposition. His connections - owner Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy, trainer Ganapathy and breeders Poonawalla Farms - have won this race more often than others while the Schiaparelli family to which he belongs is tied at the top with the Brulette family.

Normally, the Golconda Derby is the last of regional Derbies before the Indian Derby as it is run on the last Sunday in January. This year, the last Sunday also happens to be the Republic Day when, traditionally, the Bangalore Derby is run. That has necessitated an adjustment of the schedule. If Southern Emperor wins, you can be certain that he will be put on a horsebox as soon as he has been hosed and vanned to Mahalakshmi for the Indian Derby. That will add further intrigue to a race that is shaping up tantalisingly.

A below par Southern Emperor opens up many possibilities and boosts the local hopes headed by trainer L.V.R. Deshmukh's duo of 'got-abroads' consisting of  the Kallu Mama (Aussie Rules - Khalimia) and Racing Ahead (Shamardal - Rah Wa). Both of them have fair pedigrees. The sire of Kallu Mama began his stud career  at Coolmore but has recently moved to Kirsten Rausing's Lanwades Stud on the outskirts of Newmarket. Shamardal stands at Kildangan Stud in Ireland for 50,000 euros which a bit higher than what he got in his earlier years.
Kallu Mama - his sire as well as dam trace to Mumtaz Mahal - ran down the field when sent for Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 while Racing Ahead was among the 'also rans' in Fastest Finger's Golconda 2000. Kallu Mama, bred to be a miler, has a win over 1800 m. while Racing Ahead is yet to win beyond a mile. Since Kallu Mama is actually fast becoming a grey, the name appears inappropriate. He  has a half-brother abroad who has also won over 1800m. Racing Ahead, though, has a half-brother by Dubai Destination whose five out of six wins were gained at 2400 m. Racing Ahead had finished ahead of Fastest Finger in the Deccan Derby but was unplaced in the Mysore Derby. There isn't much to choose between them and as they come from the same yard, their specific pecking order and allotted role assumes greater importance. The trainer also has the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Fastest Finger, another 'got-abroad', in his yard. All three were given their winding up spurts on Thursady when Fastest Finger's work stood out. Something must have gone wrong at the eleventh hour for him to be scratched. A real blow to the connections.

Trainer Laxman Singh, who won this race three years ago with Business Tycoon, fields three runners. They, incidentally, are the three lowest rated members of the home team. Vijays Splendour (Ikhtyar - Confluence) is a maiden; Time For Smile (Placerville - Diablo's Secret) has won once over a mile from a dozen starts and In The Spotlight's Ace half-sister Ray of Light has won her only race so far over the minimum distance.

The other two local contenders are both Multidimensionals. Roses In Bloom, a course and distance winner, was fancied in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 where she spent much time skirmishing with Apparition. If she concentrates on the task at hand, she is capable of running a better race. Vocation's form has been patchy and he seems better suited to running in handicaps. The same could be said of the two runners - Pursuit of Fame and Castle Stuart - being brought over by Arjun Mangalorkar. The first named has won both his previous two starts while the latter has two wins in his last three. Of course, a place in a Gr.1 race earns much more than an ordinary handicap race and is a reason enough to set the sights high.

That leaves the three Burden of Proof's, all running in Dr. Vijay Mallya's colours. Apparition (ex Exotic Beauty) is a winner of the Deccan Bookmakers' Golconda 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and was second to Sur La Tete in the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2 where Roses in Bloom was a thorn in her side. That's consistent Classic form. She is from the same family as the Indian Triple Crown winner Indictment, and Romantic Liaison (Dheeraj Arma Indian Oaks, Gr.1). She ought to be there on the premises to pounce on an opportunity if Southern Emperor runs into heavy weather. Crown Emperor will probably streak off to the front and it is difficult to asses Saddle Up's half-brother Sovereign Rule. Two consecutive wins meant that only Southern Emperor was better backed in Turf Striker's Bangalore 2000 but he failed to come on board. 


The beauty of racing is that while the Sheikh Mohammeds, the Tabors, the Aga Khans and the Ramaswamys monopolise the big races, it does not prevent a Joe Smith from dreaming and occasionally upstaging them all. The 1990 Golconda Derby winner Sikander-e-Azam (Eupalinos - Ranunculus) did just that though his owner, Mr. P. Pentiah, had passed away earlier. Bred at the Sewania Stud, Sikander-E-Azam was bought-in at the 1988 R.W.I.T.C. Sale, having failed to meet his reserve prize of Rs.50,000. He was then acquired privately by Mr .Pentiah who handed him over to Shamsuddin, a very average former jockey and a mediocre trainer. Sikander-E-Azam won the Golconda Derby, Gr.1 as a favourite beating the Golconda 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Olympic Fame and later also bagged the Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2 scalping Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy's multi-Classic winner Oxford Blue.

People would surely have forgotten Eupalinos who stood for about 25 years at Sewania Stud in Bhopal. Apart from Sikander-E-Azam, he sired one other black-type winner in Euphemia but otherwise failed to make a significant impact. Bred by Marcel Boussac, Eupalinos was very well related being a full-brother to Acamas (Prix du Jockey Club, Gr.1) and a half-brother to Akiyda (Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Gr.1) and Akarad (Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, Gr.1). Marcel Boussac's breeding involved intricate patterns woven around Pharos, Tourbillon and Teddy. Sikander-E-Azam's dam had strains of Pharos and Tourbillon and she also brought together Princequillo and Short Hand. Princequillo's exploits eventually earned him a 'chef de race' status. His dam was a full-sister to the Renala Stud stallion Short Hand who, along with Sheridan, dominated the breeding scene in the undivided India.