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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 09 Jan 2021 |

The Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1 is the first Indian Classic in which the result on the track was overturned in the Stewards' Room following an objection. That happened in 1970 when Bright Hanovar, who had crossed the wire two lengths clear of Spellbound, was demoted following the protest of Graham Sexton, the jockey of the runner-up. It is a coincidence that Sexton's first black-type win in his own country came on Godstone -- later a stallion in India -- at Goodwood when the winner Varcame was disqualified. Like the Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1, this race has also been run twice previously at Pune. Eversun and Sir Bruce, both sons of that great stallion Everyday II, were the winners in 1984 and 1985 respectively.

Calcutta's unbeaten Black Pearl was standing his ground till the Acceptance stage but has now dropped out. His connections, perhaps, have opted for him to keep hunting in his own domain before venturing to new pastures. Even in his absence, there is a formidable outstation challenge. That challenge stems from the reality that in the last twenty Western India Guineas, nine raiders have successfully carried away the spoils. The previous ten renewals of this race present a rather surprising fact. In those renewals, no trainer, jockey, sire or maternal grandsire has more than a solitary win and there was no winner from the Poonawalla Farms or the Usha Stud.

The visiting contingent comprises of a trio of Bangalore runners -- Lagarde (Kingda Ka - La Terrasse), Nisus (Gusto - Daffodils) and Golden Oaks (Leitir Mor - Messalina) -- who ran 1-2-3 in in the Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2 last month, with less than two lengths covering three of them at the finish. All three of them are rated higher than any member of the local brigade.  Lagarde has many similarities to Serjeant At Arms who won this race in 2016. Like The Sergeant, he is an own-bred running in the colours of Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy and is trained by S.S. Attaolahi. Sulaiman Attaolahi is currently at the top of Trainers' Classic Table for 2020-21.

Lagarde has two wins from three starts. He ran a horror of a race between his smashing debut victory as a two year-old in December 2019 and his Classic win in December 2020. That was in R.C.T.C. Cup where he finished dead last. He was running after almost a year but still it was a performance  too bad to be true and all the more galling because his Guineas victory was gained in a most professional, no-nonsense manner.  He is the first foal of his dam who ran just twice, winning on her second start. She was a half-sister to Chios, a winner of the Nanoli Stud Calcutta Gold Cup, Gr.2. Their dam Zenana was imported to Nanoli as was Zenana's grandam Tajniak. Tajniak produced the smart milers Golden Tajniak -- in Italy --, Kilshannig and Masteroftherolls. This is the same branch of the Concertina family as Be Safe. Lagarde lacks nothing by way of pedigree and is the only runner in the field who can boast of a Classic win over a mile. He certainly sets the standard though that dismal last in the R.C.T.C. Cup is hard to put out of mind.

In the Bangalore 2000 Guineas, Gr.2, Golden Oaks had made most of the running uncontested till Nisus challenged him midway up the straight. While they were fighting out a stirring battle in the centre of the track, Lagarde came through unobtrusively along the inner rail and swept to victory. It is possible that Akshay Kumar on Nisus failed to spot the run of the winner because Golden Oaks on his inside was hampering his view. Nisus has been a model of consistency, winning three of his five starts -- including two juvenile black-type races --  and placing twice. His sire Gusto is perhaps the best value-for-money stallion in the country whose prowess is still largely unappreciated. He was a pure sprinter and the mares he has covered at Bishan Stud have been modest at the best. Trainer Prasanna Kumar has got the best out of the Gustos and even managed to eke out an extra furlong or two out of them than their pedigree suggested. A little over two years ago, Prasanna Kumar came to Pune with Knotty Ash --  also a son of Gusto -- and almost won the Pune Derby, Gr.1. Daffodils, the dam of Nisus, won six races, all over the minimum distance. The next dam, Love Call, was speedy too, winning the Pratap Stud Million, Gr.3 as a juvenile. This isn't one of Manjri Stud's celebrated families and there is surfeit of speed. But Nisus is game and gutsy and sure to run his race, especially as his connections have paid the hefty final entry fee.

Excess of speed is what characterises the pedigree of Golden Oaks also. That is something which the colt's trainer S. Padmanabhan will be well aware of. He trained Messalina and her full-brother Palazzio's Sun (Vandrevala Foundation Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1). Their dam Palazzio was also a smart sprinter who was twice second in the Sprinters' Cup, Gr.1 over the Invitation Cup week-end. Golden Oaks has two wins from five starts, both over 1200 m. He has floundered so far in his three starts at distances exceeding 1200 m. Though speed was their forte, Messalina, Palazzio's Sun and Palazzio herself had one good win over a mile. Padmanabhan won the DBA Hyderabad Fillies Trial Stakes with Messalina and a good terms race over a mile with Palazzio's Sun. Palazzio won the Maj. P.K. Mehra Memorial Super Mile, Gr.1.   

Messalina and Palazzio's Sun were by Alnasr Alwasheek while Palazzio was a daughter of Placerville. Those two stallions had a greater stamina quotient than Leitir Mor, the sire of Golden Oaks. Undoubtedly a very fine stallion whose progeny has precocity and speed, Leitir Mor is a bit short when it comes to staying propensity. We have so far had 67 Leitir Mors to race. 36 of them have earned a bracket and won 82 races between them. Only one of those 82 wins has been beyond a mile and that came very recently through Sporting Memories. Sunday's race is over a mile and Leitir Mor has a few wins at that distance including three Classics. Sporting Memories is schooled by Padmanabhan. An astute trainer tweaks the training regime and comes up with different tactics to get his wards to exceed themselves. In the case of Golden Oaks, though, there is another angle. Will he be running his own race or making things easier for bracket-mate Alluring Silver ?

Though not the highest rated of local brigade, Alluring Silver (Leitir Mor - Personal Allure), the only filly taking on seven colts, will be looked upon to thwart the raiders. Her sparkling run in the "1000" last Sunday should be fresh in everyone's minds. Indeed, it was eye-catching. A few points need consideration though. The "1000" was a very slow run race (Victorious Sermon won by  almost six lengths over the same distance earlier in the day, clocking a time 2 seconds faster). The Handicapper has not upped her rating after that run. The filly will be under orders again within just a week. Given these observations, if Alluring Silver does replicate her last-start performance, she should be in the mix in the closing stages.

The best rated of the home team is the colt Leopard Rock (Kingda Ka - Besame Mucho) who is trained by Malesh Narredu. A winner of three races from four starts, he got the better of Tigrio and Miss Muffet last time out in the F.D. Wadia Trophy, Gr.3. Miss Muffet's run in the "1000" does his chances no harm. The colt's grandam Blue Ribbon gave Pesi Shroff his first Classic as a trainer when she won the Dheeraj Indian Oaks, Gr.1 some years ago. Blue Ribbon's dam Endorsement won the Maharaja's Cup Gr.2 at Bangalore. Apart from Blue Ribbon and Endorsement, there are no black-type winners descending from Princess Clemente who came to Poonawalla Farms in 1993 from the U.S.A.. Leopard Rock is a progressive sort and open to further improvement. In  recent years, three winners of F.D. Wadia Trophy -- Mariinsky, Temerity and Rochester -- have later won an Indian Classic.

The remaining three local runners are the lowest three rated in the field. Tigrio, a full-brother to Phoenix Tiger who won this race in 2015, shed his maiden status on his last start which was his third. Iron Throne has not managed that in the same number of attempts while Storm Trigger has the lowest rating though technically he is unbeaten having won his only start over the course and distance.  

There is a game of musical chairs among the leading jockeys. Suraj Narredu had ridden Lagarde, Leopard Rock and Alluring Silver in their last starts. He could ride only one of them on Sunday and has chosen Lagarde. Trevor was astride Golden Oaks in both his starts this term. He will be atop the owners' other runner Alluring Silver while Sandesh will be given a leg-up on Golden Oaks. Leopard Rock has been assigned to P.S. Chouhan. Thus, Alluring Silver, Golden Oaks and Leopard Rock will be piloted in a big race by a jockey who has never ridden his mount in a race before. Read what you can in these riding arrangements !  And, while you are at it, factor in that there is rain about Pune though Sunday is expected to be fine.

Last Ten Year Trends

Like the "1000", there are eight runners to vie for the honours. The average field rating is 54 which is higher than in the fillies' race but lower than the average of the last ten runnings. Nine of the winners were top-rated in their respective years, seven favourites have obliged and four 'got-abroads' have come good. 

Last week-end, the victory of Antibes in the Bangalore Oaks, Gr.2  gave her sire Multidimensional his 50th Classic win and enabled him to join a very select band of stallions who have achieved the feat in India. The other stallions to have done so previously are:-

Razeen - 110
Always A Rainbow - 80
Placerville - 77
Riyahi - 72
Everyday II - 67
Malvado - 58
Ilheus - 50

Trainer Pesi Shroff has been stuck on 49 for over two years now while  S. Ganapathy, too, is struggling in the nervous nineties for long to reach his century. Placerville has 49 wins as a maternal grandsire. None of the runners in the "2000" is out a daughter of Placerville.

It must be mentioned that in the absence of a central, nominated agency to maintain such statistics, there are variations in the lists maintained by different sources. For instance, Multidimensional had already reached the milestone according to those who counted the Bangalore St. Leger wins of Mathaiyus and Cosmos and the two victories of Adjudicate in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. The definition of a Classic has not been laid down anywhere but the purists consider it to be a race which is contested by the members of one crop only. That is the convention followed in the authoritative "Biographical Encyclopaedia of British Flat Racing". By that convention, the Indian Turf Invitation Cup and some of the St. Legers cannot be considered as "Classics" after they have been opened to older horses.