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By Shashank Dixit | 05 Dec 2019 |


The country’s oldest racecourse at Guindy traces its origin back to 1777, when the collector of Chingleput district (in erstwhile Madras Presidency) granted 81 cawnies of land to racing enthusiasts for conducting races. A cawnie (now an obsolete measurement unit) used to be approximately equal to 1.32 acres. In 1837, Madras Race Club came into being, but its operations didn’t last for long due to financial constraints. By 1887, a new committee and stewards’ body was constituted. In its initial years, it was under the control of Calcutta Turf Club and later under the South India Turf Club, but later became fully autonomous in 1966. Racing in Chennai has seen it all for about two and a half centuries, including financial distress, closures due to World Wars and recent political upheavals, yet has stood the test of time valiantly.Legend Sir Lester Piggot, who also rode in India, considered it as the best track in the country.


After a seclusion of about two decades, horses from across the country again started competing at Guindy, with the Invitation Cup in 2016 marking its beginning. Prior to 2016 however, the racing scene here was dominated by the famous golden and brown colours to an ’ineffable’ degree. Hence, for obvious reasons, an extended trend analysis for thiscentre is nugatory.

The average field rating for the last 3 ‘competitive’ renewals (since 2016), is about 58, which is more or less the same as that of Saturday’s. The average winner’s rating is about 67 and only Royal Currency is rated above that at 70. All the last three winners – Tudor Treasure, Kangra and Aika AikaAika were among top public fancies (even though none of them were topmost rated), so the race has been kind to punters’ pockets.


Rajesh Narredu-trained Star Appearance (Western Aristocrat – Tatbeeq) deserves the foremost mention. Star Appearance shed her maiden tag as a 2-year-oldin last December itself. In The Bangalore Juvenile Million, Gr.3, she was 6 lengths shy of War Hammer, for whom it was a comfortable win. She however made a strong statement in summer in an encore including The Mysore Fillies Trial Stakes by 5 ½ lengths. She lost her last start in August, which was her first run over a mile. Saturday’s race will mark Star Appearance’s comeback after exactly 4 months. Such a gap, particularly during winters is usually considered inapt. To put in into context, the first run after a long gap is generally considered an ‘educational’ one, just to gauge the form and fitness of the animal. Hence, whether she will be extended to full capacity in The South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 is tough to figure out. Star Appearance, though, has reportedly got two pieces of trackwork which suggestsa promising comeback on her maiden Guindy appearance.

Contrary to the usual scenario where the localitesoutnumber the raiders, there are only two local horses in the fray compared to 7 outstation challengers. One of them is Royal Currency (Corporate Jungle – Private Collection), who is also the highest rated filly in the field. She is also the only group race winner among the 9 runners, and not once but thrice. In the last winter, Royal Currency won The Christmas Cup, Gr.3 and The Guindy Gran Prix, Gr.3 before winning The Nilgiris Derby, Gr.1 in Ooty. In The Nilgiris 1000 Guineas, Gr.3, she was 2 lengths behind Cape Kidnappers who finished a gallant 2nd in recently concluded Golconda 1000 Guineas, Gr.2. After The Nilgiris Derby, Gr.1 win however, Royal Currency stayed out of action for about 6 months. She lost her last start last month, finishing 3rd behind My Journey, who is still unbeaten in 3 races and looks a promising prospect for Chennai classics. Thus, Royal Currency has got a much-neededlung opener and looks set in what can be a direct clash with Star Appearance. No trackwork has been reported for Royal Currency since 4 October.

Arjun Mangalorkar-trained chestnut Kirkwood (Win Legend – Bold Reply) has finished on board in 6 of her 7 starts. Out of Kirkwood’s 3 wins, the most impressive was the one against Northern Alliance, who later won The Bangalore Summer Million, Gr.3 and The JWGC Mysore 2000 Guineas, Gr.3. Kirkwood is coming off a win in her last start on 22nd November, and that essentially assuresher fitness in certain terms. Her dam Bold Reply was by the all-time great Elusive Pimpernel. Her half brother Ophion raced in Calcutta with reasonable success at long distances. Kirkwood hence gives a strong impression of being a stayer, who would put up a worthy fight in races to come. One notable point is that she has been ridden by 5 riders in 7 races, and hence repetitive changes in saddle can be a point of concern for her in big-ticket races.

Bostonia (Multidimensional – Real Excellence) is still a maiden after 3 starts, though she hasn’t raced as badly as her records suggests. If not for the interference, she would have won her first outing in summer. In Mysore, she finished 3rd to Abira by 1 ½ lengths, where she herself shifted out in the straight. In her last start in Mysore 1000 Guineas, Gr.3, Bostonia quite literally underperformed, finishing 5th to Cosmic Ray. Her full-sister Winged Foot won The Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2 in 2014 and her dam Real Excellence was the runner-up in The Mysore Derby, Gr.1 in 2006. Irrespective of the outcome of this race, it seems some of the fillies from this field are going to be serious contenders this winter in long-distance classics.

Western India challenger Belgravia (Phoenix Tower – Lisa’s Kitten) has raced 4 times, all at 1200m. She won only on her last start in Pune, which was long overdue. Belgravia has been quite active of late, atleast in terms of distance she has travelled recently. From Pune, she was taken to Calcutta where she had a piece of trackwork before landing down south in Chennai for the Guineas. That’s about 3700 kms! Fickle mindedness doesn’t really help in a fast-paced sport like racing, and such purposeless long voyage wouldn’t do any good to Belgravia. Also, Belgravia got mandatory gate practice recently as she showed tendency to shift-out in the straight, and such a behavior in the classic season doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Hyderabad-based Esteva (Whatsthescript – Panamera) has won thrice in 6 starts, though by narrow margins, and has otherwise lost by big ones. Grey filly Latin Dance (Strong Suit – Sakza) has won twice in 4 starts and lost one race apparently because she carried 61kgs. This is the first time she would race outside Mysore. Latin Dance has recently got 2 very encouraging piece of speedy trackworks. Localite Supreme Fragrance (Multidimensional – Dior) has shown behavioral issues at least twice recently, having veered out and swerved out in the straight, resulting in an injury on left oral commissure. Giethorn (Knight’s Tour – Lucy Diamond) has won twice, though by narrow margins. Knight’s Tour has 32 runners from 2 crops but is yet to sire a group race winner.


Rains have lashed the coastal city of Chennai this week and it is likely to persist for a few more days. A maximum temperature of 30°c is forecasted for Saturday with a 58% precipitation chance. In 66 races this winter season at Chennai across 9 meetings, favorites have obliged 23 times (34%).


On merit, the first classic of the season seems to be a direct fight between the three-time group race winner Royal Currency and the outstation challenger Star Appearance. Kirkwood, who is coming off a win looks in rousing form and will make her presence felt in no uncertain terms. A strong resistance from the seasoned trainersSS Attaollahi and P Shroff’s Bostonia and Belgravia cannot be ruled out.