THE NILGIRIS 1000 GUINEAS (Gr. 3)
Situated in the heart of the Nilgiris mountains, the picturesque Udhagamandalam racecourse is the only high-altitude racecourse in the country, about 2,268m above the mean sea level. The Ooty races are held during the scorching summer when it's an off-season for all other racing centres in the country. There are only 3 group races which are run in the two-month long season, and the first one of them is The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas (Gr. 3). The Ooty classics are distinct in nature as compared to the ones run in other centres for reasons more than one. First, the Guineas are run over 1400m, against the traditional distance of a mile. Second, a race like this comes probably a little too early in the career of a 3-year old, with The Nilgiris Derby (Gr.1) having the pleasure of being the first Derby for a particular generation. Lastly, these races were run as The Nilgiris Fillies (and Colts) Trial Stakes from 1978 to 2007, until the nomenclature was altered to The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas (and 2000 Guineas) in 2008. Both the Guineas races serve as a precursor to the blue-riband of the season, The Nilgiris Derby (Gr.1).
The 12th Nilgiris 1000 Guineas (and overall the 40th considering the Fillies Trial Stakes), has 12 runners for Sunday, which is the joint-highest number with that of the last renewal. Most classic races in India have certain races preceding it, which give a hint of form. The Christmas Cup (Gr.3), The Madras Gold Vase (Gr.3) and Guindy Grand Prix (Gr.3), all run in Chennai, are three races which serve as perfect form-indicators for the Ooty classics. Bay filly Royal Currency (Corporate Jungle – Private Collection) has won two of those races and hence rightfully deserves the foremost mention. However, note that a winner of Christmas Cup or Guindy Grand Prix has never won The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas yet. Royal Currency has run 6 times, finishing on board in all of them, including three wins. She won her first race in The Madras Club Cup in December at 1200m by 3 ¾ before winning The Christmas Cup (Gr. 3) at the same distance by 3 ¼. She had beaten King T'chala in both those races until he reversed the placings in The Madras Gold Vase (Gr.3) in February. Royal Currency returned back to winning ways in The Guindy Grand Prix (Gr.3) at 1600m, beating the field by 1 ½ length. She ran in The Guruvayur Plate at 1300m carrying 59kgs in Ooty on Monday but went down to Glorious Destiny by a length. Royal Currency, nevertheless, should put up a bold show on Sunday. Royal Currency was not the first fancy in any of her three wins, but she is likely to garner most support in the Guineas. Corporate Jungle had 31 horses in his first crop, and Royal Currency is perhaps his best yet, earning about 2.8mn so far. That Madras-based horses are exposed to bigger races earlier than others, might be a reason for that, yet Royal Currency, for the time being, will occupy the first position in that list. Though not all the fillies in the field have got ratings, Royal Currency is the top-rated at 59.
One filly that catches preliminary attention and has won by significant margins is Butterfly (Phoenix Tower – Kismat). Rated at 51 and a winner of two of her five starts, Butterfly started off her career in the same outing where Royal Currency had won her first race. Butterfly ran 2nd to the latter in her first start by 3 ¾ lengths at level weights. Later, in The Madras Race Club Cup, Butterfly shed her maiden tag in a majestic fashion, winning by a massive 10 ½ lengths at 1000m with P Trevor astride. Her performance in subsequent runs, The Byerly Turk Million (Gr.3) in Hyderabad, where she ran 5th and then in The Queen Elizabeth Commemoration Cup, where she ran 3rd was certainly below par. She was sent as a favorite in her next start, which she won by 6 lengths at 1200m. Her manner of winning by large margins is definitely something that sets her apart and if P Trevor partners her on Sunday, she might give threatening competition to Royal Currency.
B Suresh trained Royal Rules (Saamidd – Quiet Appeal) has won two of her five starts. Her first win came in the first race itself, where she won The Reconnect Plate by 6 lengths in Chennai. She won her second race as recently as on Monday in Ooty, where she was 1 ¼ length clear of the rest. Between these two victories, she didn't show much intent. Royal Rules will have to punch above her weight on Sunday to get past other two. Another filly from B Suresh's yard is My Passion (Speaking Of Which – Reflected Glory). The chestnut filly has won once in 6 starts, with her sole victory coming in The Moonlight Romance Plate at 1200m by 7 lengths. She has ran 2nd on three occasions and is a half-sister to good-type Multiglory. These are still early days for Speaking Of Which, who is widely touted to have staying influence. My Passion too might get better as the distance increases.
The fillies other than the ones already mentioned have a mediocre chance on Sunday. R Foley has won this race 8 times out of 11 and has two runners on Sunday. Apalis (Kingda Ka – Elizabeth) has won one out of two starts and Supreme Fragrance (Multidimensional – Dior) has won the only race she ran. Both his wards seem short of experience however, the pedigree suggests a different picture as Multidimensional and Kingda Ka have thrown some decent horses.
Liberate (Air Support – Efrhina) is a half-sister to the multi-classic winner Amazing Grace. With Amazing Grace being an exception, Efrhina's other progenies have failed to make a noteworthy impact. Liberate, an outstation challenger has won one start in Hyderabad before ending last in Byerly Turk Million (Gr.3). Liberate will have to put up better performances in future if she wishes to be called a worthy sibling of Amazing Grace and The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas is a decent break to showcase that. Cape Kidnappers (Abbeyside – Tijuca Forest) too boasts of some valuable experience, having run 2nd in The Byerly Million (Gr.3) & 4th in The Godolphin Bard Million (Gr.3). Whether she can use that experience in the right manner is something that remains to be seen.
The remaining four fillies are still maiden and haven't achieved anything yet worth mentioning. However, some of them appear decent on bloodlines. The Poonawalla stud bred fillies, Angel Of My Heart (Arazan – Burning Fire) is a full-sister to Magnificence and Arashiyama (Arazan – Intuition) is a half-sister to Elena. A final entrant in this race, Constanza (Air Support – Quiet Storm) is a half-sister to black-type New Alliance. Beauty Of The Turf (Corporate Jungle – Supernova) has run 4 races, running off the board every time.
Food For Thought
The average time that the 11 winners of this race took (2008-2018) is considerably slow, at 01:32.6 for 1400 meters, which is surprisingly very close to the 1600m record-time of few other centres!! There can be a few valid factors for it. The Ooty racecourse has an unusual layout, resembling the shape of a boomerang and also a very short straight which is just a little more than a furlong. A longer straight clearly gives horses more time and room to gallop at full throttle hence the short Ooty straight might be a reason. Also, a race like this comes when horses are in the early stage of their career and far from peak-maturity. The pace of the race would perhaps have little impact on the outcome of The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas on Sunday.