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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 13 Jan 2020 |

The 'Pongal' Derby has fallen to the outstation challengers in the last three years but with the local filly Supreme Fragrance pulling off a stunning upset in the South India Oaks, Gr.1 there must be renewed hope in the hearts of the Guindy habitues. The soft going did play its villainous role in the outcome of the Oaks. The weather is unsettled in Chennai in December but by mid-January it settles. A look at the skies and the state of the track, however  is as necessary as the scrutiny of horses in the paddock. R.C.T.C. and M.R.C. both decided to have their Classics from the year 1958-59, The Calcutta Derby was run earlier and so the South India Derby is the third oldest in the country.

The invading Bangalore trio of Impavid, Sir Supremo and Southern Ruler is a formidable one. Impavid (Air Support - Polenta) did beat the fellow Bangaloreans in the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 in July but that, perhaps, was the best race he ran in his eight-start career in which he has never been off-the-board. He has won two Classics since then -- Deccan Colts' Championship Stakes, Gr.3 and South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 -- but both the races were over a mile and the manner of his victories was workmanlike rather than authoritative. It is his run between those two Classics that is worrying and it came in the Deccan Derby, Gr.1 where he was a sluggish third to Consigliori and lesser fancied stable-mate Royal Crystal though he did finish ahead of Well Connected. who had beaten him in that thrilling race at Bangalore. Being the highest rated runner in the field,  he does hold a realistic chance provided he gets the trip. On that score, the fact that he has not won on both the occasions that he ran over 2000 m. is disconcerting. Also, his style of running is unsettled.  He has been ridden with the pace or held back for a late run; it is for the connections to decide what suits him best.

Air Support had two winter Derby runners in his first crop, Air Command at Bangalore and Apollo Bay at Chennai. They failed to finish on board but they were average horses. Impavid, War Hammer and Consigliori are from his second crop and of a vastly superior calibre. The coming fortnight will tell us more about Air Support's stamina influence. War Hammer is from a Classic, staying family that has become a bit speedy in immediate generations; Consigliori comes from a stout family with plenty of Class. Impavid's dam did not race but has produced eight winners in India who have won up to 2000 m. His Admiralofthefleet half-brother Captain Cook won the Calcutta Monsoon Derby, Gr.2, failed to earn a bracket over longer distances and later won a Class 1 sprint. He is from the immediate family of Lammtarra (Epsom Derby, Gr.1) and Snow Bride (Epsom Oaks, Gr.1; albeit, the filly was awarded the race on disqualification of the winner). 

The last two South India Derbies were won by colts trained by Darius Byramji. He has no runner this year but a hat-trick could be in store because both those colts were sons of Multidimensional and 
the stunning South India Oaks, Gr.1 winner, Supreme Fragrance (out of Dior) is also by Multidimensional. The long odds and the manner of her win both call for the adjective 'stunning'. She showed plenty of courage and commitment in sticking to her task in demanding conditions and out-battling the other six fillies. Also, she won despite drifting to the outer rail and that is not a likeable trait. She is running after a gap only a fortnight and this is a much tougher assignment. The task of carrying the local flag falls on her and as a course and distance winner, it is not a completely forlorn endeavour..

Sir Supremo (Speaking of Which - Cool Mover) came out of the maidens on his eighth start at the beginning of this winter season. He has always kept good company having been second to War Hammer, second to Impavid, third to Cosmic Ray, second to Knight Templar and a close third to Impavid and Lightning Bolt on his last start in the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2. His first crop sire has been very much to the fore in Classics run so far this year. He has had five runners of which two have won and three have been on board. Sir Supremo's dam is a Razeen mare out of Cool Ashlee who won four races in U.S.A. and placed second in Mazarine Breeders' Cup Handicap, Gr.1. Cool Mover is a half-sister to Sea Ruler who picked up two black-type races and found Jacqueline just too good in Sobo Central Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1. The immediate family has excelled around a mile so the Derby distance is in the realm of unknown. Sir Supremo has a bit to find  on bare form but he could be about the premises. 

The third Bangalore challenger is Southern Ruler (Saamidd - Farha) whose sole victory came in the AVR Group and Catalyst Properties Mysore Derby, Gr.1. He is one those rare ones who have shed their maiden status in a Derby. That win was scintillating and since then he has been a good third to War Hammer and Northern Alliance over a mile. Apart from his Mysore win, he was also on board in Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. That his best performances should have come in two Derbies over 2000 m. is not surprising because his dam line is classy and staying with the fine Wildenstein mare All Along, a winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Gr.1, as his third dam. His sire Saamidd won both his races at 1400 m. and never raced beyond a mile but his damsire is the great Galileo and some stamina influence must come into his offspring from that source. He should get the distance and with Colm O'Donoghue now better acquainted with him, he deserves some support. 

It isn't often that a horse pays the final entry and then doesn't run the race. Certainly, another instance of that happening does not, off hand, come to the mind. That, however, is the case with Knight Templar. His hat was thrown into the ring at the last minute but a set back after that has forced his unfortunate withdrawal. Just a reminder to everyone that we are dealing with living beings with whom things 
can go wrong unexpectedly. Coming on the heels of Rosina's withdrawal from the Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 tomorrow, this is a double whammy for Usha Stud where both Rosina and Knight Templar were born.

Arirving from Hyderabad is Lightning Bolt (Excellent Art - Shamaal) who, on his last visit here gave a mighty scare to Impavid in the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 and had Sir Supremo behind him. The verdict was a neck and one three-fourths of a length. On that basis, the current ratings of  Lightning Bolt and Sir Supremo seem to be unduly harsh. Last year, from a vastly bigger crop, Excellent Art got two Derby winners in Star Superior and Indian Pharaoh. With a much smaller cropr, it commendable for him to have a  Derby runner this year. Lightning Bolt finished quite spectacularly last time and the winning post came just in time for Impavid. Some would construe that as a favourable sign for L.V.R. Deshmukh's ward to reverse the placings this time around. However, it must be kept in mind that though Lightning Bolt's dam is a Razeen mare, she was a winner of A.V. Thomas Sprinters' Cup, Gr. 1. Shamaal's previous six winners did not win beyond 2000 m. so Lightning Bolt may be out of fuel at the business end of the race.. 

Royal Chieftain may well be Southern Ruler's trail blazer while Star Elegant and Demerara are yet to win at mile or more and hence a mile and half appears much too long for them. The average field rating of 66 is only a point below the average of the last three years. It betters Calcutta's average for the race tomorrow by four points. The average ratings of the last three winners is 76 but Salazaar and Psychic Force won despite a lower rating. Only Prevalent Force was a previous start winner.


It is extremely doubtful if two fully related siblings have run in the same Classic. That would be possible only in a case of twins. Twinning is a rare phenomenon. It is even rarer for both twins to survive and grow to maturity. If they do, it is very unlikely that physically they are developed enough to race, and further, to reach the level required to run in a Classic. It will be interesting to hear of a case where this has happened because racing is full unbelievable happenings.

The next closest thing to twins are siblings related in blood and we almost had this rare case here. Knight Templar and Supreme Fragrance are a brother and sister in blood. Both are by Multidimensional and their dams are full-sisters ! It could have earned them an entry into Ripley's !! Knight Templar's withdrawal means that this rare instance will not come to pass and the local filly has to do something special on the track for her to be remembered.