The rendition of the INDIAN DERBY to be run on Sunday, 7th February 2016, will be another electrifying race to look forward to. Yet another champion will emerge to wear the glittering crown. So many more hard-luck stories and interesting post mortems will keep the Derby experience alive for weeks if not months. All the hype and fanfare will be done in about 2:30 minutes. Although it took Be Safe about 2:27 last year, which is by far the fastest ever and very difficult to encompass given the quality of the current field that has not yet shown the kind of dominance Be Safe did in his early days.
The "INDIAN" Derby is beyond any doubt the mother of all Derbies. I have been fortunate to having won this race as an owner with Super Storm in 2013. The heady feeling will remain embedded eternally in my memory. Its' been three years now, yet the enchanting moments are fresh in the mind. Every time I look at the replay of last furlong and knowing my champ will hold them gives me chills. This race holds a special place like no other in every professional/owner/breeders hearts and careers and so it does for me. I have won it as an owner and hopefully soon will be able to lead-in a winner trained by me as well.
The Indian derby and the Narredu family have recorded a lot of firsts –
My dad (S. Narredu) gave Dr. M A M Ramaswamy his first Indian Derby victory in the racing baron's own famous Goldie Brown silks. Incidentally, as fate would have it, my uncle (M Narredu) and my brother Suraj Narredu) were fortunate enough to have trained and ridden respectively "THE BOSS's" last Indian derby winner last year with BE SAFE. The Narredu family's association with 'Boss' was highly fruitful.
Boss's brilliant strategic inputs and competitive implementation both on the training regimen and final tune-ups and then riding according to pre-race strategies can make great stories. We mourn the sad demise of The Big Boss of Indian Racing who has been a God Father of sorts to the family, and we shall always remain indebted to him for the numerous winners and Classics successes he allowed us in to be a part of.
My Dad gave Hazara Stud their first Indian Derby with Super Storm for their wonder stallion Rebuttal, also his first winner of the Indian Derby. My uncle rode Indictment to victory in the Indian Derby and eventually the Indian Triple crown, thus giving one of India's most sought-after and multiple time champion sire "RAZEEN" his first Indian Derby victory.
We are probably the only racing family in the history of Indian racing where every member of our family has won an Indian classic. Satish & Malesh are the only brother-duo to have won the Indian Derby as a Jockey and as trainer as well.
Coming over to this year's edition of the Indian Derby, a look of the field does not point out at any one runner as being head and shoulders above the rest and in my opinion will be an extremely closely contested race and a thrilling finish is on the charts.
For me the race is between the trio of Myrtlewood, Costa Del Sol and Desert God. Myrtlewood and Costa Del Sol both coming from Pesi Shroff's yard, are very good horses in their own right. Myrtlewood not having much competition from her gender is a dual Indian Classic winner (Indian 1000 Guineas and the Indian Oaks) but Costa Del Sol, had to face the likes of Phoenix Tiger, was unlucky to only fill the bracket and not having a classic win against his name yet. However he has proved his credentials by winning over 2000 meters in record time, while Phoenix Tiger was beaten by outsider and surprise winner Colombiana in the Ruia also over 2000 meters.
Desert God, the Dual derby winner, just coming of his rather easy victory in the Kolkatta Derby will be a tough nut to crack and with the man in charge of him, trainer S Padmanabhan, who we all know is no easy task master, will come up with their A-Game on D-Day. Desert God we know can stay the distance and comes from a multiple classic winning family surprisingly all his siblings in India are Classic winners or classic placed; a great achievement for their dam Running Flame and their sire Burden of Proof. Running Flame now has been shuttled and moved to the Poonawalla Stud where she has a foal at foot by Excellent Art.
A brief on the other horses that I believe are good enough to trouble the trio will be – Colombiana, the winner of the Ruia Cup whose career graph is soaring and has been tracking outstandingly and looking in great heart.
Setaflame coming from Kolkatta, bred in the Blue, has not had a start in Mumbai, yet, is looking and feeling well and has all the attributes to spring a surprise.
Pheonix Tiger the winner of the Indian 2000 Guineas beaten by Columbiana subsequently in the Ruia Cup, in my opinion, seems to have stamina limitations and a rather confusing form. Take out the one unlucky run in the Ruia and this horse has not put a foot wrong since his partnership with his jockey Colm has begun.
Gestapo is one with tremendous potential and staying ability, but can't be placed in the same league as the rest at the moment.
Bangalore challengers Sea Lord, Brilliant Cut and Bold Command all look to have stamina limitations and have to get their game a notch higher to trouble the frontline contenders.
The rest are taking a chance which is well worth it, 'coz as the racing saying goes "YOU CAN'T WIN IF YOUR NOT IN". A few hard luck stories and an exceptionally one for one of these might just see one such contender across the line and take the honours. It's a game of uncertainties after all.
I must mention that after attending the Zavaray Poonawalla Evening Racing on 30th January 2016,and feeling the whole atmosphere being more like entertainment and not just gambling, with good gestures from the crowd at Mahalaksmi acknowledging the effort of the runners and riders with hand-claps and words of appreciation on their way back to the paddock was heartening. And such attitude will surely encourage the professionals to being all the more interactive to the crowd. I am looking forward to that eventful day when the Indian Derby will be run under lights and I firmly believe that will put THE DERBY on a pedestal beyond compare. The efforts of Mr Zavaray Poonawalla, Dr. Ram Shroff and the entire committee of the RWITC must be applauded; take a bow Sirs, your current efforts and ideas will ensure a glittering future for Indian racing.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the author's personal views.)