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By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.) | 13 Jan 2021 |

Since outstation horses once again began to travel to Guindy for the Classics, they have been outstandingly successful, carrying all before them. Only two local fillies -- Tudor Treasure (South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2) and Supreme Fragrance (South India Oaks, Gr.1) -- have been able to withstand the onslaught of visiting contenders. For the South India Derby, Gr.1 to be run on the Pongal Day, there are eleven runners of which five have come from Western India, three from Bangalore and there is one from Mysore as well. Some of them have been in Chennai for about a month now.  The two locals are Cavallo Vincente and Illustrious Ruler who are still maidens as is Rubik Star, the Western India raider. Coming from Bangalore is Hope Island who has won a race but has the same low rating as Rubik Star. These four colts have only a bleak winning chance. Of the remaining seven none has a clear edge over others.

There are two fillies in the contest and both have paid a final entry fee of Rs. 5,00,000. They are the unbeaten Born Queen (Tazahum -  State Secret) and Successor (Leitir Mor - Sweeping Success). Born Queen scored impressively on her debut in January 2020.  She was then owned by one Mr. K. Narayan who, at a later stage, decided to give up her ownership. Her trainer, Satish Narredu, was now on the lookout for a prospective buyer and he recommended her to U.R.B.B. Ltd. A deal was struck and it was in U.R.B.B. colours that she won her next race once racing resumed after the lockdowns. Thereafter, she has won the South India 1000 Guineas, Gr.2 and South India Oaks, Gr.2 where she finished six lengths ahead of Successor over the mile and three and a quarter lengths to the good in the Oaks. An unbeaten record and a course and distance victory to  boot, she has an impeccable record and on racing record is very much a serious contender in the Derby. The old adage, "In the Derby, prefer a colt", precludes her from being labelled as one to beat. Pedigree-wise, she may not boast of  fashionable antecedents but has a perfectly respectable bloodline. Her dam placed a close third to Red Baron and Super Storm in the Kimmane Bangalore Derby, Gr.1 while her third dam, a Champion Filly in Italy, produced that useful sire Inchinor. She will be ridden by Suraj Narredu who has been in sparkling form and is riding with great flair and poise. Last year, Satish Narredu trained Sir Supremo to win this race with Suraj Narredu in the saddle. An encore this year is a distinct possibility.

On form, it is hard to see how Successor can turn the tables on Born Queen. In the Guineas, Successor attempted to come from behind but found that Born Queen had gone way beyond catching. In the Oaks, Successor tried front running tactics but Born Queen just sailed past her. The interval between the Oaks and the Derby is short and dramatic improvement is difficult to achieve. It will be interesting to see what new stratagem Trevor, who has ridden the filly in both her previous Classics, now employs.

In the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2, Taimur (Multidimensional - Tammy O), Vachan (Whatsthescript - Maun Vrat) and Giant Star (Excellent Art - Sweeping Star) were separated by a long neck and a short-head in the first three places with Sporting Memories (Leitir Mor - Priceless Memories) about five lengths behind in fifth. All four of them will be renewing their rivalry in the Derby. Sporting Memories has won a race over 2000 m. in the interim but the other three have not run. Sporting Memories won on his home track in a facile manner but a more resounding performance was necessary to bring him into the contention. He could sneak a place on the board but getting better of all three who had finished ahead of him in the Guineas seems a tall order.

The close verdict for the first three places in the Guineas suggests that the finishing order can change, especially over a distance none of them has essayed. It can also change depending on the progress made in the last month and the way the Derby is run and unfolds. Taimur was a surprise winner in December given that he was then a maiden. As a son of Multidimensional, the extended distance should not inconvenience him but doubts have been expressed about his damside. Indeed, his dam Tammy O won all her races at the minimum distance and her grandam won only up to 1200 m. On the other hand, Tammy O's siblings -- Barrachus, Emotionless and Flying Visit -- have won between a mile and 2000 m. There is stamina further back. Usha Stud has earlier produced good winners like Lei, Venus Arising, Aster Rose, Tasawwur and others from this Belle Musique branch of the Donnetta family. Taimur came from way back to win the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.3. If the pace suits him, he could get the Derby trip but one cannot be bullish about it. A. Sandesh knows the gelding well but a disconcerting sign is that no track work of Taimur has been reported since his last run. 

Though Vachan is Mysore-based, only one of his nine starts so far has been on his home track while he has raced six times at Guindy. He was unplaced on his debut as a two year-old at Hyderabad but has never been out of first three since. His wins have been over 1200 m. and 1400 m. but he will be quite comfortable over the extended trip. His dam, owned by Dhunjibhoy-Shirke-Desai-Rattonsey, was housed in Ed Dunlop's Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket. She did not win in England but placed over 2400 m. and 2800 m. as befitted a daughter of stamina influence Montjeu. In India, Maun Vrat has had three foals who are winners up to 1800 m. Vachan's sire Whatsthescript has been very consistent and most of his progeny excel around a mile to 2000 m. He has, however, produced a Golconda Derby, Gr.1 winner in Germanicus. Germanicus, it must be added, was out of a Montjeu mare like Vachan. What's more, just like Germanicus, Vachan also belongs to an established, staying family that has produced an Epsom Derby winner in recent years. Germanicus and Sinndar were from the same family while Vachan is from the family of Oath. C. Umesh is a decent jockey but rather out of his depth at this level. A win for Vachan will be very welcome indeed. It will break the monotony of only elite owners, trainers and jockeys monopolising the Classics.

Giant Star has two wins from four starts, both of them coming over a mile. His dam is a half-sister to Successor. Excellent Art has two winter Derby wins through Star Superior and Indian Pharaoh. In the "2000", Giant Star held a forward pitch, moved up to challenge Ashwa Bravo and though he could not withstand the onslaught of first Vachan and then Taimur, he clung on tenaciously. He could be ridden differently on Thursday and his chance is no  worse than Taimur and Vachan and Y.S. Srinath replacing Yash Narredu only improves it.

That leaves only Bold Legend (Win Legend - Bold Reply) whose solitary win from three starts came over 2000 m. at Pune. He beat Luminous in that race by two and a half lengths but the filly was giving him 3.5 kgs. Luminous came to Guindy for the Oaks and could only finish fourth behind Born Queen so he has a fair bit to find on bare form. He is bred on the same Win Legend/Elusive Pimpernel cross as Angel Dust, Anjeze, Sir Cecil and Hall of Famer. He is a half-brother to Ophion who won the R.C.T.C. Gold Vase over 2200 m. and was twice on the board in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, Gr.3 over 2800 m. Their dam Bold Reply, a full-sister to Elusive Hero (The Hindu Golconda Derby, Gr.1), counted three wins over 2000 m. in her five winning brackets so Bold Legend should have the requisite stamina. He has raced  only thrice thus far so his full potential has not yet been seen. He will be ridden by P.S. Chouhan who won this race two years back on Psychic Force. 


Competitive Classics at Chennai are a recent development. As such, previous trends are irrelevant. Perhaps, something about recent South India Derby winners will be of interest. Salazaar was the first winner of the new era. He was followed by Prevalent Force and Psychic Force, both trained by Darius Byramji and both sons of Multidimensional. Last year's winner, Sir Supremo, enabled Usha Stud to complete a hat-trick.   

Salazaar and Sir Supremo had both been on the board in the South India 2000 Guineas, Gr.2, which was their last start before the Derby. Prevalent Force and Psychic Force won the South India Derby on their first start at Guindy. All four of them failed to win on their next start after the Derby. All four of them are still in training. Salazaar, Prevalent Force and Psychic Force are now long in the tooth but still retain their zest for racing and are no push-overs for younger horses.