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By Shashank Dixit | 10 Aug 2019 |

Horse racing in Hyderabad can be traced back to the year 1868 when resident Englishmen conducted the sport at Moula Ali Racecourse. In 1886, under the reign of by H.H. Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, Nizam VI, the scene shifted to Malakpet.The Nizam’s Cup used to be the most prestigious race in those days at Malakpet and also one of the oldest in the country alongside The Queen Elizabeth II Cup and The Byculla Club Cup. Though racing in Hyderabad has not been continuous, The Nizam’s Gold Cup has always remained an integral part of itsmonsoon season. It used to be a handicap race run at distances varying between 2000m to 2400m. From the early 1970s, Hyderabad started witnessing competitive racing and in 1977, HRC became an independent Turf authority. In 1975, The Nizam’s Gold Cup became a “terms race”, run over 2000m and since then the terms have remained more or less the same. It was promoted to Group 2 status in 2013.

A field of 6 runners has lined-up for this year’s renewal of The Nizam’s Gold Cup, Gr.2. The field has an average rating of 95, which is about 6 points lower than that of past decade. In the last ten runnings, 4 favorites, 3 top-weighted and 4 highest-rated horses have won. Fillies and Colts have won 2 times each with geldings running away with the other 6. A horse having rating less than the average field rating seldom wins and that trend has been prevalent in this race too, with all the winners in last 10 years being rated more than the average field rating.

Rewind to 16th August 2010, it was The Nizam’s Gold Cup, Gr.3 and the Invitation Cup winner Becket had come to Hyderabadwith a huge reputation. When the gates flung open, jockey SurajNarredu settled Becket at the back of the 8-horse field. At the top of the straight, Becket carrying the top weight of 62kgs,displayed a scintillating turn of foot that still remains fresh in the memory of racegoers. That day, Suraj Narredu became the youngest jockey to accomplish the feat of 1000-career wins. It has now been 9 years since Suraj has won this race and the winner of The Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby, Gr.1, Star Superior (Excellent Art – Ramjet) promises to give him another shot at winning the Nizam’s Gold Cup. Star Superior is the highest stake earner (3.52cr) from the 2015-born crop. He completed a Deccan Colts-Derby double last monsoon at this very track. He then came back to Malakpet in March this year for The Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1, only to be humbled by Adjudicate. Star Superior later avenged that defeat in The Maharaja’s Gold Cup, Gr.2 at Bangalore and has been tracking well since then. His recent track work suggests that he ‘’retains form’’ and it this race appears to be at his mercy. All factors point towards Star Superior continuing his winning run, however, the handicap of 62kgs might give him a reality-check. He will be carrying 5kgs more than the next contender, making it the first time he will concede such a weight. His recent victory in the Maharaja’s Gold Cup by 2 ¼ lengths carrying 60kgs against a competitive field indicates that this handicap might not be of concern but a handicap as heavy as 62kgs always invitessome skepticism. Becket, in 2010 also won carrying 62kgs,Tintinnabulation (2014) and Alaindair (2016) both carried 60kgs each. All of them were legends in their own right as is Star Superior. Come Monday, the onus will be on him to defy that handicap. 

Big Sur (Win Legend – Validate) is one horse that can upset the applecart of Star Superior. A winner of 8 of 21 starts, Big Sur was based in western India until he recently shifted his base to Bangalore under S. Padmanabhan. He is coming off a fine victory in The Karnataka Mile Championship Cup, Gr.2. Earlier in the season, in the Krishnaraja Wadiyar Cup over a mile; Big Sur finished 9 ¼ lengths behind the winner Star Superior, who conceded the former 6.5kgs. Add another 2 furlongs to it and decrease the handicap difference to 5kgs and that significantlydiminishes Big Sur’s chances. What adds to the woes is that he runs within a gap of just 10 days, plus a 600-km travel besidesthis would also be his first venture at this track. Star Superior has fairly put to rest all the debate regarding his “staying ability”and the fact that he is quite comfortable at anything between 1600m and 2000 is well accepted. However, Big Sur may take heart from the fact that the favorite in the last two renewals hasfailed to oblige.

LVR Deshmukh trained Tintinnabulation won this race in 2014 clocking 02:03.91, which still is a record intact at the Hyderabad monsoon track. LVR Deshmukh has come to the party with Rikki Tikki Tavi (Excellent Art – Stravella) this year. He won his first start comfortably in February last year with David Allan. He came back in the winter to contest the classics, but failed to make any impact. He came close to ending that drought last month, only to finish 2nd, a half-length behind Wave Rider. Rikki Tikki Tavi has now been winless for over a year-and-a-half. He finished 2nd to Serjeant At Arms in The Super Mile Cup, Gr.1, and that run indicates that he can be in contention with Big Sur on Monday, carrying 52kgs., ironically though, he is rated higher than Big Sur.

Tazahum’s most successful progeny Mr. Handsome (Tazahum – Youre So Beautiful) was mostly ridden by Suraj Narredu, before the change over to Yash Narredu and other riders. Mr. Handsome has also not won since last November, besides a below par in the Bangalore summer. Like Big Sur, this would be his first race in Hyderabad. One cannot afford miss the disparity and the vagueness in the way the outstation horses are rated. Every club has a distinct method of rating horses, which isdiscussed about a lot in racing circles. That Mr. Handsome is rated 65 raises eyebrows, as he would surely have a better chance of earning a bracket if reverted to handicap races. While anything is possible in racing, on pure form and rating, Mr.Handsome has no chance, however, it is likely he is going to be making the pace for Star Superior considering the common connections.

Wave Rider (Top Class – Mizzna) won a million race over 1800m on the Invitation Cup day in a smart timing on the winter track. Of his 10 starts, 9 have come at his home turf where he has finished out of top-2 just once. In his most recent run, Wave Rider beat Rikki Tikki Tavi by half a length conceding 5kgs. On Monday, he would concede just 1.5kgs. Thus, even though Star Superior dominates this field, the runner-up position is likely tobe hotly contested. Likewise (Dancing Forever – Farha) is the only filly in this field and also the oldest in this lot. This will be a tough task for her. Only two fillies have won this race in the past decade – Kangra (2018) and Icebreaker (2009).

It would be interesting to see where Star Superior’s campaign heads. Now that the Bangalore summer is over and the scene has shifted to other centres for the monsoon, Star Superior’s likely targets are The President Of India Gold Cup, Gr.2 (9th Sept) or The Idar Gold Cup, Gr.3 (31st Aug). Though, he had put to rest the speculations of his staying ability after the Indian Derby win followed by The Maharaja’s Cup victory, it will be keenly watched if he goes to Pune to compete the Indian St. Leger, Gr.1, which will be a true test of his stamina. Rest assured, The Nizam’s Gold Cup is likely to just add another jewel in the crown of Star Superior.