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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 22 Jun 2020 |

The first winner of the 2017 crop was the filly Flameoftheforest  (Speaking of Which - Set Ablaze by Razeen) who won the scurry at Pune on 12 October 2019 by a little over five lengths. She was next seen in action three months later at Hyderabad where she finished fourth to Lombardy, Air Blast and Allabouther in the Vijay Textiles Juvenile Multi-Million. Owned by Ms. Ameeta Mehra and Mrs. B.E. Saldhana and trained by Malesh Narredu, she hasn't raced since. Her sire Speaking of Which had three Classic winners in his first crop while her dam is a full-sister to Set Alight. All the three Classic winners of Speaking of Which had Razeen in the bottom of the pedigree. Flameoftheforest has potential which has still not been seen. 

With administrative reasons causing the first two days of the Mumbai Winter Meeting to be run at Pune,  Mahalakshmi staged its first two year-old contest only in December. The premature termination of that season meant that Mumbai lost nine of its scheduled racing days. More importantly, the two black-type races over a mile, one for fillies and the other for colts, usually run in mid-March, were not held.  Those two races, along with the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1, have proved to be significant pointers to future Classic winners. The PBMM has showcased 13 future Classic winners while the March Championships have produced 10 winners each in the twenty five years that all  three have been run..


With the first three finishers in this year's Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 hailing from other centres, Air Blast (Air Support - Sabre Dance) was the only locally trained runner to find a place on the board. Bred on the same cross as War Hammer, Air Blast was an impressive winner on his debut over 1200 m,. coming from almost the tail-end of the field with a sustained run and going away at the finish. He was beaten by Lombardy at Malakpet and fourth in the PBMM, running three races in a month. Perhaps, that was asking too much of a young colt. Air Blast is trained by S.K. Sunderji and owned by Dr. Suresh Chintamenani. The trainer as well as the owner had a good year in 2018-19 and will be keen to maintain the momentum.  Air Blast is a half-brother to three black-type winners in Mariinsky (Deltin Casinos Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1), Fleeting Arrow (Harvins Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2) and Schiavone (New Year Cup, Gr.3). Air Blast's older full-sister Simply Soaring reeled off four consecutive wins at Calcutta. Their dam Sabre Dance is a winner of the Classic Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3 so Air Blast certainly has the requisite pedigree credentials.

With Forest Flame winning the PBMM and the Ebco Worksmart Breeders' Produce Stakes, Gr.3, it was left to California (Speaking of Which - Godspeed) to claim the remaining black-type race -- Gool S. Poonawalla, Gr.3 -- at Mumbai. Second to Monarchos on debut, California's black-type  win was impressive as she slammed the smallish field by seven lengths. She didn't exactly distinguish herself in the PBMM but that could have been due to the change of tactics. She ran a forward race when winning but was ridden in check in the PBMM. California runs in the colours of the Shroff brothers - Ram and Raj - and is trained by Malesh Narredu as was her dam, a winner of  New Hope Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1. California is bred on the same cross as Rosina (Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3) and has Razeen in her pedigree. Godspeed died recently but has left behind two colts –  a 2YO by Speaking of Which and a yearling by Kingda Ka. The result of her 2019 covering by Excellent Art is not known.

Apart from Forest Flame, the only other member of the 2017 crop to win two races at Mumbai was Joaquin (Saamidd - Phoenix). He was third to Golden Oaks and El Capitan on debut in the B.K. Rattonsey Memorial Maiden Multi-Million. He then picked up two races, both over 1200 m and he beat four other winners in the second of those, clocking the best timing by a 3YO for the distance. He runs for Mr. Haresh Mehta -- nowadays not as active as some time ago -- and is schooled by Shazaan Shah. If you search for the pedigree of Joaquin on pedigreequery you will find an error. Joaquin's fourth dam, Military Girl, is shown as being Australian. Military Girl is very much Indian-born, a daughter of Maratha Lancer and Mrignayani bred at Manjri Stud. Mrignayani had a fabulous pedigree, being by the Indian Derby winner Star of Gwalior out of the Indian Oaks winner Meherban by Khan Saheb. Star of Gwalior and Khan Saheb were half-brothers so the pedigree was interesting, too. Mrignayani won seven races, mostly sprints and in lower classes. It is hard to find black-type in the family after Meherban.  

There are three members of the 2017 crop who have not lost a race at Mahalakshmi and all are fillies -- Forest Flame, Miss Muffet (Multidimensional - Xisca) and Alluring Silver. MIss Muffet is a half-sister Caprisca, also trained by Imtiaz Sait, who won the Indian St. Leger, Gr.1 at Pune in 2018. Miss Muffet scored a fighting win over Live By Night, coming from way off the pace. Live By Night won over a mile next time out. Miss Muffet is trained by the veteran Imtiaz Sait and owned by a comparatively new owner, Mrs, Liane Luthria, the better half of the RWITC Committee Member. More will be heard of Miss Muffet especially when she races over longer distances.

The only grey winner at Mahalakshmi is Alluring Silver (Leitir Mor - Personal Allure), owned by the Poonawallas and their partners. Saddled by Pesi Shroff, she scored an easy win over 1200 m. on her debut. The mare Personal Allure was sold at 2010 Keeneland Sale in foal to Giacomo for US $ 10,000. She had produced a stakes winner in  U.S.A. , called Turallure, so she was obviously a good buy. The good buy became a steal when Turallure  won the Ricoh Woodbine Mile, Gr.1, Bernard Baruch Handicap, Gr.2 and placed a very close second to Court Vision in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile, Gr.1, just ahead of that wonderful filly Goldikova. Those accolades came after Personal Allure had landed in India at Neutral Stud Farm in Wander Jatana. (She later moved to Poonawalla Farms). A mile will probably be  Alluring Silver's best distance though her Giacomo half-sister, Pure Allure, was third in Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2.  There are two mile winners at Mahalakshmi -- Giant Star (Excellent Art - Sweeping Star) and Live By Night (Arazan - Isn't She Special). Both are by proven Classic sires out of Classic winning dams and so are obviously to be kept an eye on. 


There was a time when Hyderabad races were seen as easy pickings for outstation raiders. In about the last decade, things have changed a bit. The local contingent is able to repel the raiders more often and some Hyderabad horses have actually ventured beyond their ken -- like Machiavellianism, Vijays Pride, Tintinnabulation, Swiss Don, Aika Aika Aika and Corfe Castle, to mention some -- and made their presence felt. This year, three Malakpet juveniles -- Lombardy, Smashing Blue and Ashwa Virrat -- distinguished themselves at other centres. Hyderabad had completed its winter season before the pandemic brought a sudden end to racing and hence was able to run its full complement of juvenile races.

Lombardy has already been discussed in connection with the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 in which she finished a creditable third. However, the filly who was obviously the star of the season at Hyderabad was Smashing Blue (Win Legend - Twice Over) who, like Black Pearl, is unbeaten in four starts. She won her first start as a 2YO late in October on her home turf and then travelled to Guindy in early December to pick up the Tamil Nadu Race Horse Owners Association Juvenile Million. Back in Hyderabad, she added the Byerly Turk Stakes, Gr.3 in January giving weight and a beating to  seven of her rivals of whom Bedford was already a winner and  five won subsequently. That enhances the form of the race. She completed a black-type double by adding the Darley Arabian Million, Gr.3. It was a small field and she again confirmed her superiority over  Bedford. When the Handicapper announces the ratings, it will be interesting to see how he rates Lombardy and Smashing Blue.

After finishing second on his debut, half a length behind Smashing Blue, the colt Ashwa Virrat (Leitir Mor - Silent Crystal) registered three straight wins. Owned by Mrs. Anita Chauhan and trained by M. Srinivas Reddy, he won his next start comfortably and was sent to Delhi where he won the Bookmakers' Association Million and the Global Stud Farm Million. His second to Smashing Blue is probably more significant than his three wins. Ashwa Virrat's Arazan half-sister Cher Amie won the Guindy Grand Prix, Gr.3 and placed in two Classics at Ooty. This is the last foal of Silent Crystal as she died in 2017 after Ashwa Virrat was weaned. The interesting part of the colt's pedigree is that while eight consecutive sires along the tail female line are all Classic or staying influences, Silent Crystal's dam was a half-sister to Moorestyle, a Champion Sprinter and a Champion Miler in England. Ashwa Virrat has so far not raced beyond 1200 m. 

Ashwa Bravo (Leitir Mor - Shadow Roll) has similar connections to Ashwa Virrat. He is unbeaten in two starts at Malakpet, both over 1400 m., including the Alcock Barb Million, Gr.3 in which he accounted for six other winners. The colt is a half-brother to ten winners, none of whom had black-type. His grandam Warning Shadows was an excellent racemare winning the Sun Chariot Stakes, Gr.2 and placing second in Airlie Coolmore Irish 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 and comes from a good family. Like the dam of Ashwa Virrat, Silent Crystal, too, died in 2017.  One of the winners that Ashwa Bravo vanquished in winning the Alcock Barb Million, Gr.3 was Conscious Gift (Speaking of Which - Brushed Aside), then an unbeaten winner of two races. Brushed Aside, a Juddmonte filly, won 2 races in Ireland when trained by Dermot Weld and was bought by Usha Stud as a filly out of training. Two of four foals are winners in India while Moskova has been eight times on the board in her ten starts without a win. Trained by Leo D'Silva for Mr. M. Ramakrishna Reddy and Ms. Ameeta Mehra, Consicous Gift has a bit to prove. Aintree and Queen Daenerys ran often and were rewarded with a win in  the closing stages of the season. Two fillies, Southern Princess (Excellent Art - Southern Bay) and Akashima (Kingdaka - Alexandra Pearl), also broke their duck  rather late and they appeal on their pedigrees.


It is interesting to note that two unbeaten fillies, Forest Flame and Smashing Blue, belong to the Schiaparelli family. When the 1987 Bangalore Summer Season started, the leading family in India was the Wenonah clan. Its members, mostly descendants of Stella Marina, had won 44 Classics. The Bangalore Fillies Trial Stakes, Gr.2 of 1987 was won by Divine Light to get the Schiaparelli family off the mark. In the 34 years since then, the Schiaparelli family has rocketed to the top and has today 74 Classic wins to its credit coming through 30 individual winners. Most of these Schiaparelli family winners have descended from the mares the Poonawalla Farms imported from the Barley  Corn branch -- Charenzaccio and her daughter Schiaparelli and later, Ratifia and her daughter Rasant. The fillies descending from those mares have been, very rightly, guarded. The option left for the other breeders is to import mares from the Schiaparelli family from abroad and indeed several have come to India, though not all belonged to the Barley Corn branch.

Only Manjri Stud has been successful in getting Classic winners from a Barley Corn branch mare it imported. That was Beautiful Ballad, the grandam of Pronto Pronto and Kingoftheworld.  If Smashing Blue goes on to win a Classic, it will be a feather in Dashmesh Stud's cap. That nursery imported Longmorn -- a grand-daughter of Ratifia -- in 2007. Her 'got-abroad' filly Twice Over is the dam of Smashing Blue. The first three foals of Twice Over, all by Win Legend, were chestnuts and pretty ordinary. Smashing Blue, also by Win Legend, is a dark bay !