- india's first & foremost horse racing portal


By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 08 Oct 2014 | PUNE

Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)

During the time of Baji Rao I as the Peshwa, the Maratha forces went on a spree, hoisting the standard as far north as Attock and extracting 'chauth'. The Pune-based horses have been on a similar mission this monsoon season. Karthik Ganapathy has taken both the Classics run in Mysore; Mallesh Narredu grabbed the fillies' race in Hyderabad and Shroff's Tiger Tops ransacked Hastings. Shroff did send Your Royal Highness to Malakpet for the colts' race and though he did not win, he didn't come back empty handed having collected the third place stakes. (Top Commander's limited mission at Hyderabad was only to set the pace for Bold Majesty which he did perfectly). Now comes the joust on their home turf and predictably it is local affair.

The Pune Derby has been sponsored since 1996 by Nanoli Stud. In the very first year of sponsorship, Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy, who owns the Nanoli Stud, led in Indictment, his first winner of the race. He has since added four more wins and has a fancied contender this year. The lead-up races to the Pune Derby are the F.D. Wadia Trophy (August), General Rajendrasinhji Trophy and S.A. Poonawalla Trophy (both run in September). Of late, these races haven't quite served their purpose. In 2004, Venus Arising won the General Rajendrasinhji Trophy and the Pune Derby and two years later Secret Memory claimed the S.A. Poonawalla-Pune Derby double. The other eight winners of the Pune Derby in the last ten years had not won any of the lead-ups. 

Just for the record, the winners this year are War Command (F.D. Wadia Trophy), Quasar (General Rajendrasinhji Trophy) and Zachary (S.A. Poonawalla Multi-Million) and it may be appropriate to discuss them first. War Command won the F.D. Wadia Trophy, Gr.2 in August and on 1 October he scored easily in the Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Golf Course Mysore 2000 Guineas, Gr.3. He is apparently being supplemented for Sunday's race. Eleven days gap between two Classics with travel to Mysore and back thrown in is bound to have its effects though Dr. Ramaswamy's horses have travelled further with lesser time intervals and won. A greater worry is his pedigree. He is by Ace (he can hardly be termed a stamina influence) out of Sure Future, a full-sister to Six Speed and Haunting Memories. Haunting Beauty, War Command's grandam, was a well performed mare in England. In India she has established a classy and brilliant clan that has about 90 wins to its credit but only one of them is at 2000 m.  

Quasar (Seeking the Dia - Belle Jour) is a well-bred Hazara Stud 'got-abroad'. He has been very consistent having never been off-the-board in his five starts, winning two of them. His sire, Storm Cat's biggest earner, was bred in U.S.A., raced with distinction in Japan (5 wins including two on Turf and twice placed second in Japan Cup Dirt, Gr.1; winning distances 1600 m. to  2000 m.), was retired to stud in U.S.A. (Kentucky as well as Florida), had a spell in Chile and is currently in South Korea. A globe-trotter to be sure. Quasar comes from a brilliant family - his fourth dam is a half-sister to the flyer Dayjur, a winner of the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp) and would have the speed and class for a 2000 m. but it is not a pedigree loaded with stamina. 

Hat-trick seeking Zachary (Kingda Ka - Yantai) won the S.A. Poonawalla Multi-Million, Gr.2 in taking style. Owned by Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy, he has won his two races this Pune season after having placed third on his debut in Mumbai. He is by the first crop sire Kingda Ka who won his two races in Australia over sprints but was a close second in Dubai Rosehill Guineas, Gr.2 over 2000 m. Danzig line sires often get horses who excel over trips longer than their own winning distances but we are still learning about Kingda Ka's distance aptitude. Yantai won three races over 1200 m. Her dam Gentle and Bold produced nine winners - including Proteas, winner of the S.A. Poonawalla Million, Gr.2 - who won 23 races in U.S.A., Hong Kong and India but only two of them beyond a mile. Gentle and Bold did place in stakes races abroad but belongs to an obscure family. 

The highest rated contender is the Pesi Shroff-trained filly Maisha (Footstepsinthesand - My Pension). Maisha won the Bangalore Fillies' Championship Stakes, Gr.1 in the summer, has never missed getting her number on the board in her six starts and is bred to stay on the dam's side. Her sire had a very brief career of  just three starts and he won all of them, the last being the Two Thousand Guineas, Gr.1 at Newmarket. He has been reasonably successful as a stallion and the average winning distance of his progeny is a shade over a mile. My Pension scored on her debut in Italy over a scurry but her remaining five wins in that country came around a mile. Her two half-sisters won 10 races between them, nine of which ranged from 2400 m. to 3600 m. Their grandam was a dual Gr.3 winner in France and a full sister to Galiani, a winner of the Grand Prix de Paris, Gr.1 when it was run over 3000 m. Maisha belongs to the excellent Colonial family.

Maisha would have been a sitter in this contest but for the fact that she will be having her first proper race after four months. She has been well prepared and had a mock race on the Indian St. Leger day. The curious point about that mock race was that Quasar was also in it. Normally, connections avoid trying their horses against rivals. Quasar won it by a length from Maisha but one can be certain that Shroff's filly never opened the throttles fully. Shroff is a trainer who is not averse to going against norms and it would appear that he is one handler who appreciates that all horses are not the same. His routines are hence custom-made to suit a horse. Just last month, trainer Ellie Lellouche produced Ectot to win the Prix Niel, Gr.2, an Arc trial, after a five month absence from the track due a set-back. Maisha, to best of one's knowledge, has not had a set-back; she was being merely given some time off.

Two other horses deserve a mention and both of them are by the Freshman Sire Dancing Forever who, sadly, is no more. They are Shivalik Storm (out of Badraan) and The Myth (out of Iles Piece). Shivalik Storm won the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 beating Be Safe and that result caused a lot of anguish. In Pune, he hasn't found a winning turn in two starts in the last of which he was beaten a length and a half by Tiger Tops whose runaway victory in Kolkata does him no harm. His dam has so far sent conflicting signals. She had three foals abroad, all by Halling, of which Eastern Aria won 10 races, nine of them at distances of 2000 m. or more including the DFS Park Hill Stakes, Gr.2 over 2900 m. In India, she had two previous Rebuttal foals. Shivalik Star is a smart sprinter with five of his seven wins being over 1200 m. while Ace Badraan has won his two races over 1600 m. and 1800 m., he is not in the same league as his older full-brother. Does Badraan's progeny take their distance aptitude from their sire ? If so, Shivalik Storm won't find the trip daunting.

The Myth travelled to Mysore and picked up the Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3. Her unraced dam visited top stallions like Danehill, Danehill Dancer twice and Montjeu and for that all she had to show was a winner of one race in Czechoslovakia. The Myth's 'got-abroad' half-brother Winjoy has five wins upto 1400 m. Overall, the family does have stamina but appears a bit short on class. Dancing Forever won a Gr.2 race over 2000 m. in U.S.A., a Gr.3 race over 2400 m. and placed in two Gr.1s over 2400 m. including the Emirates Airlines Breeders' Cup Turf  He was certainly not lacking in stamina and if transmits it successfully to some of his progeny, they should tackle a 2000 m. trip well enough.

The unraced Purple Parade has obviously been left-in through an oversight and one or two more may drop out at the acceptance stage. The principals, however, have all been discussed. Of the rest, Flashing Chieftain (Alnasr Alwasheek - Forest Fantasy) commands respect on sheer pedigree and his close second to Quasar in the General Rajendrasinhji Million. He is one of the three runners likely to be saddled by Karthik Ganapathy and jockey bookings will give a hint of stable's pecking order. Dr. Ramaswamy's runners have been sighted rather infrequently in big races for some time but have had a purple patch of late. His Be Safe won two of the three Classics during the Bangalore Summer; he has won both the Mysore Classics run thus far and also picked up the colts' race in Hyderabad. The Pune course is a demanding one with a comparatively short run-in. However, horses coming from behind do win good races provided they are not too far behind at the bend.


Mallesh Narredu (6), Pesi Shroff (4) and C. Rajendra (3) have ridden winners of almost half the renewals. Narredu rode five of the winners for his principal patron, Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy including the hat-trick of Artois (2003), Venus Arising (2004) and Aquilo (2005). The hat-trick feat was emulated by C. Rajendra with Phenomenale (2008),  Versaki (2009) and Ocean and Beyond (2010).

S.R. Bhagwat was astride Knight Earnest when he won the race in 1988; J.E. Pereira piloted Mac Bruce in 1992 while Hanumant Singh guided Grey Magic to a victory in 1994. The curious fact is that neither Knight Earnest, Mac Bruce and Grey Magic won another Classic nor did their jockeys !

It was only in the fifteenth running of the race that a 'got-abroad' (Scenic Royale) came up trumps. In the last six years, though, four of them have triumphed.