SOUTH INDIA OAKS, Gr.1
Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
The racing at Guindy went through a couple of 'Dark Decades' when it became ultra-localised and outstation challengers disappeared altogether. That left the field open for Robert Foley and Chettinad Stud-bred horses to enjoy an unprecedented monopoly. It was from 2016-17 that outstation trainers started coming back to Guindy with their charges. The first ten Classics of the 'Once-Again-Open' era were all won by them. The winning streak was was broken by Tudor Treasure when she won the South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2. A bit of a 'deja vu', considering that Robert Foley saddled the filly and she carried the gold-and-brown colours. The exception was that she was not bred at Chettinad Stud.
Seven fillies have accepted for the race on the New Year's Day though there is a strong suspicion that Sahara (Net Whizz - Marisa Go ) has been left-in inadvertently. The filly is not bred to stay and won her maiden at Bangalore over 1200 m. just a couple of days ago so it will be surprising if she does make the trip to Guindy. The remaining six represent current Classic form well with La Rondine (Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1), Tudor Treasure (South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2), Saving Grace (Nilgiris 1000 Guineas, Gr.3) and New Creation (second in the Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2) all having accepted. The South India Oaks is the only regional Classic -- apart from the Derbies -- enjoying Gr.1 status during the winter.
Tudor Treasure (Saamidd - Isola Tiberina) once again has task of carrying the local flag. She won the South India 1000 Guineas well, repulsing the challenge of three outstation fillies and is the highest rated runner in the field. She is from the first crop of Hazara Stud stallion Saamidd who was allotted lesser mares in his first year at stud than compatriot Net Whizz. Yet, he has beaten his barn-mate by being the first to sire a Classic winner. He won two races in his racing career, both over 1400 m. at 2, including the Neptune Investment Management Champagne Stakes, Gr.2 at Doncaster. He was, however, bred to get a lot more than just 1400 m. Saamidd is bred on the same lines as the erstwhile Sans Craintes stallion Mathematician who was by Saamidd's grandsire out Saamidd's grandam. The unraced dam of Tudor Treasure was purchased for 28,000 euros at Arqana's Mixed Sale in February 2104 in foal to Elusive City. The foal she was carrying has not been named. One of her two earlier foals was a winner in France over 1200 m. Tudor Treasure's grandam Trampoli was a multiple Group winner in U.S.A. and a half-sister to Gr.1 winner Roi Normand. There is stamina in the tail-female family of Tudor Treasure.
Eleven Classics have so far been run in India during the current year and seven of them have been shared between David Allan and Leigh Roche. David Allan, of course, is an old India hand and has ridden more Classic winners than any foreign jockey. Irishman Leigh Roche, on the other hand, is having his first winter in India and has created a favourable impression, winning the "1000s" at Bangalore and Mumbai and the "2000" at Chennai. He will be aboard La Rondine (Kingda Ka - Rahy's Serenade), unbeaten in two starts -- both under Roche -- including the Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 and a sister to six other black-type winners. The filly that La Rondine beat at Mahalakshmi was Arabia who has already raided Guindy successfully. A line through Oomph gives La Rondine the edge over New Creation (Multidimensional - Tarnished Lady) The filly that Tudor Treasure beat in the South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 by just over two lengths was Hammersmith. So Vishal Gaikwad, who trains La Rondine, will have a line to the local star. None of La Rondine's siblings have won a black-type race beyond 2000 m. but there are good 2400 m. winners -- Bruckner (Calcutta Derby, Gr.1), Proserpine (South India 1000 Oaks, Gr.1), Monet (C.N. Wadia Gold Cup, Gr.2), etc -- in the immediate family. Roche is well acquainted with the filly and the Guindy track.
Three daughters of Multidimensional -- Adjudicate, Arabia and Oriana -- have won four of the eleven Classics so far and the son of Danehill is represented here by New Creation. While David Allan's four Classic wins this year have been lauded, he came in for some adverse comments for his ride on New Creation at Bangalore. The charge is that he got hemmed in, extricated himself late and finished on a bit too late. A contra view is that New Creation did not take the gap at which she was aimed by her rider and, perhaps, she runs better when she has an unfettered run. There is no doubt that she finished on well and lost only narrowly to Oomph. Like La Rondine, New Creation's six siblings have not won beyond 2000 m.though Lad Lady (by Razeen) was a well beaten second in Southern Bay's Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2. Tarnished Lady herself won her three races in U.S.A. around a mile. She was a close second to Godolphin's Jilbab in C.C.A. Oaks, Gr.1 over 2400 m. New Creation and Tarnished Lady have high dosage numbers and the filly will want the pace to be to her liking. New Creation is the first foal of her dam to be retained by her breeder.
Saving Grace (Tazahum - Someone Special) won the Nilgiris 1000 Guineas, Gr3 beating Cher Amie (Arazan - Silent Crystal) by a length and a quarter. The placings were reversed in Tudor Treasure's race though both fillies finished off-the-board. Saving Grace is bred and owned by Mr. Aditya Thackersey, a long time patron of the turf. The filly seems to have ,lost her way a bit after winning the Classic up in Blue Mountains as she is without a win in her five starts since then. Cher Amie has won thrice including once over a mile. Her sire Arazan has been a bit disappointing but he did get Ice Glacier, a winner of Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2. Cher Amie's dam was Gr.2 placed in U.S.A. and is a winner at a mile. The dam line has stamina. Cher Amie is owned jointly by the Dhunjibhoys and the Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy Chettiar of Chettinad Charitable Trust. So, if she goes to the front, will she be setting the pace for La Rondine or Tudor Treasure ?
Like La Rondine, Semele (Midnight Interlude - Maun Vrat) is also owned by the Dhunjibhoys. Semele, named after a Greek goddess, is the only runner with a win beyond a mile. That came on her last start over 1800 m. and was stylishly gained, though in much inferior company. Dixieland, her 'got-abroad' half-sister by Holy Roman Emperor, won two races over a mile. Their dam is by the redoubtable stamina influence Montjeu and she raced abroad in the colours of Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy and Partners. The family traces back to Tillywhim, a good source of stamina. This is the immediate family of Epsom Derby winner Oath while the Indian Oaks winner Manifold belongs to another branch. Midnight Interlude sired the recent Bangalore 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 winner Oomph so Semele has the blood to do well over a trip. With La Rondine and Cher Amie also carrying the same colours, it is hard to guess what her role will be in the race.
After winning the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2, Arabia's rating has been hiked to 92. Arabia was beaten two and quarter lengths by La Rondine in Mumbai. Hence, the form points to Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy's filly. The form, however, is essentially over 1600 m. None of the fillies have yet essayed a mile and a half trip and all of them are venturing into unknown realms. That is what provides the interest.
PAST THE POST
The 2006 South India Oaks, run in the 'Dark Decades', was won by International Star in a time of 3:21:7 ! A winning time under 2:50 was a rarity. in those days. When Proserpine won in 2017, she had only one rival to beat -- whom she beat by six lengths -- and yet she clocked 2.40.36, the fastest time for 19 years !! Last year, Masquerade had three more rivals to conquer and her winning time was 2:37:51. This year's renewal appears to be even more competitive so will the clock stop under 2:37 ?