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UNRAVELLING THE CLASSIC CONUNDRUM - A Preview of The Villoo Poonawalla Indian 2000 Guineas (Grade 1) - By Cyrus Naterwalla

Posted on - 15 Dec 2018

UNRAVELLING THE CLASSIC CONUNDRUM – A Preview of The Villoo Poonawalla Indian 2000 Guineas (Grade 1)
 
- By Cyrus Naterwalla
 
The 2nd Classic of the season and the first one involving the Colts – The Villoo Poonawalla Indian 2000 Guineas holds centre stage this Sunday and is the feature event of a well filled 8 race card. The 2000 Guineas is the first leg of the Indian Triple Crown and this year promises to provide thrills beyond compare as the 2 Champion Colts of this generation lock horns once again. Their previous encounter in the summer in the Bangalore Colts Trial Stakes turned into a veritable thriller with the verdict separating them being a mere head. Both have since gone their separate ways, set about enhancing their already formidable reputations and both once take each other on in what promises to be an intense duel for supremacy.
 
Racing is filled with several such rivalries between 2 champion horses and this one is no exception and should hopefully pull a large crowd to the Mahalaxmi Race Course Sunday to witness these 2 equine stalwarts. Although 8 runners will line up to face the Starter – the 2 Champion Outstation Colts appear to tower above the rest and predictably will hog all the media attention.
 
The role of honour for this prestigious race includes several past greats such as Astonish, Elusive Pimpernel, Mystical and Jacqueline and more recently Serjeant At Arms – one of the best milers seen in recent times. Last year, it was the big strapping colt Castlebridge who ground his opposition into submission, starting an odds on favourite and easily accounting for his  10 rivals, one of them being the future Indian Derby winner Rochester who ended up runner up that day. The size of the field seems to have shrunk in the last few years and this year’s number of 8 equals the smallest fields in the past decade. This year’s winner seems worthy to rank alongside those past greats should one of the 2 favourites prevail.
 
A summary of the chief contenders is given below :-
 
SIR CECIL  (Win Legend x Elusive Trust)
TRAINER :-  S. PADMANABHAN                          
JOCKEY :-   DAVID ALLAN
RATING :-     88                                                       
DRAW :-7
STARTS :-7                                                               
WINS :-7
 
The grey ‘galloping gold mine’ from the yard of Trainer S. Padmanabhan whom David Allan has categorically stated is one of the best that he has ever ridden in India and his trainer has given him similar accolades, equating him to the likes of Becket. He has done everything that has been asked of him so far, winning all his races with aplomb and annihilating whatever opposition he faces. Beginning his career in early January last year, he scored a facile maiden victory over 1200M before quickly going on to score a convincing win in the Bangalore Juvenile Million over 1400M, the only previous time he has been ridden by David Allan. He went on to score an astonishing 18 length win in the Karnataka Juvenile Million – his lead up race for the summer campaign before engaging in a thrilling battle with Star Superior in the Colts Trial Stakes – holding on grimly by a head, the closest a rival has gotten to him so far. He emphasized his superiority in the Bangalore Derby where the winning margin was a much more decisive 3 lengths but this was expected due to the stamina limitations of Star Superior. He then travelled to Mysore for the Winter Campaign where he barely worked up a sweat, comfortably claiming the Mysore 2000 Guineas and Derby by double digit margins. He has been rested and well prepared for this event although the initial plan was not to travel to Mahalaxmi until circumstances forced a change so this was race was not part of his original plan. He has been blazing the track in the morning workouts and appears to be in the form of his life at present. He appears to have a strong cruising speed as he has raced prominently in all of his races, and finds another gear when asked for an effort. On paper he looks very hard to beat and towers above his rivals on ratings as well. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment as there are sure to be those who oppose him, if we were to look for chinks in his armour, Star Superior did run him very close in the Bangalore Colts Trial and that was the only time he had been pitted against a really worthwhile rival. He could just prove to be vulnerable at this mile trip if at all as he seems to forge even more ahead of his current crop of rivals with an increase in distance and one would think the best chance to beat him would be today. Also, he is having his first appearance on the Mahalaxmi track while Star Superior ran twice here last season.
 
STAR SUPERIOR  (Excellent Art x Ramjet )
TRAINER :-R. NARREDU                                      
JOCKEY :- SURAJ NARREDU
RATING :-     82                                                       
DRAW :-2
STARTS :-8                                                               
WINS :-5
 
A high quality colt in his own right who was unfortunate to have come up against a colt like Sir Cecil in his year as he could have easily been the leading colt of his generation in another year. Beginning his career in February, a month after Sir Cecil, he was brought to Mumbai to contest the Poonawalla Million on just his 2nd start after easily winning his Maiden race on debut, he impressed one and all when finishing on well to be runner up to Corfe Castle, one of only 2 horses to have finished ahead of him so far. Remaining in Mumbai, he stamped his authority on the Shapoorji Pallonji Colts Championship over the mile, annihilating the opposition to win by a wide margin in a solid time. He went on concede weight and give a beating to some of the best youngsters in his lead up race and went down fighting to Sir Cecil in the Colts Trial. He was more convincingly beaten in the Bangalore Derby and he travelled to Hyderabad next, again taking the Colts Trial Stakes where he gained revenge over Corfe Castle and then winning the Deccan Derby from much the same opposition, albeit in a more workmanlike manner. He too has been rested and well prepared since then and has been working extremely well to boot. On paper there is just a head separating them over this trip and a truly thrilling battle is anticipated between the pair. This would probably be his only chance to get the better of Sir Cecil as he clearly has stamina limitations and looks unlikely to stay the Derby trip and if anyone is capable of toppling the grey juggernaut it is him
 
EXCELLENT (Excellent Art x Skyelady)
TRAINER :-DALLAS TODYWALLA                     
JOCKEY :- NEERAJ RAWAL
RATING :-     69                                                       
DRAW :-6
STARTS :-    6                                                                       
WINS :-3
 
Probably the best performed and the highest rated of the local contingent, he looked very promising in the early part of his career but just seemed to lose his condition approaching the Pune Derby and was a shade disappointing in his lead up race here as he was given weight and a sound beating by Costa Brava. Beginning his career with a late finishing 2nd over a sharp 5 furlongs to speedster Columbianaprincess, he was a facile maiden winner over 1400M where he got the better of Awesome One who was making his racing debut. He went on to lift the 2 plum 3 year old races in Pune in impressive fashion, scoring a comfortable win over Bernice and Adjudicate in the F.D. Wadia Trophy and confirming the form with Adjudicate in the S.A. Poonawalla Multi Million with Pioneer a late finishing 3rd that day. He looked to have lost condition in the paddock in the Pune Derby although he still ran his heart out, looking a non stayer in the final 200M but still finishing a respectable 4th. However, Costa Brava gave him 2 kilos and a sound beating on his seasonal debut, and on that showing, he looks to have very little hope of toppling the out station challengers. It is hoped that Dallas has been able to get him back to his best over the last 3 weeks and it will be interesting to see his condition in the paddock. He could prove to be a factor if he is able to return to his best but will need to pull out plenty of improvement from his earlier run
 
AWESOME ONE  (Dean’s Kitten x Aim To Achieve)
TRAINER :-DEEPESH NARREDU                         
JOCKEY :- YASH NARREDU
RATING :-     58                                                       
DRAW :-    5
STARTS :-3                                                               
WINS :-2
 
Handsome and rapidly improving dark bay colt who is trained by young Deepesh Narredu who has only recently begun his career as a Trainer and what a thrill it would be for a first season trainer to have an Indian Classic winner on his resume. He has been brought along steadily and appears to have plenty of potential but it may be too early in his career for him to be taking on such tough opposition. Making his debut towards the end of the Mumbai season, he went into many notebooks when finishing on to be runner up to Excellent and he emerged a facile winner of his maiden in Pune shortly thereafter, convincingly beating a maiden field. He did not race again that term and had his 3rd start a little less than 3 weeks ago where he again impressed when scoring an authoritative win in Class III, clocking an excellent time in the process. His lead up work has been impressive since then and he appears to be progressing very much the right way at present and deserves his place in the line up. He looks to have unknown potential still and could be many people’s dark horse to upset
 
SACRED ROMAN (Holy Roman Emperor x Cliquot)
TRAINER :-PESI SHROFF                                      
JOCKEY :- LEIGH ROCHE
RATING :-     49                                                       
DRAW :-3
STARTS :-3                                                               
WINS :-2
 
Another potentially good and highly regarded sort, he has a similar profile to Awesome One, having run thrice and won his last 2 starts. Beginning his career at a much later stage, he made his debut as late as August of this year in Bangalore where he was actually sent off favourite for the Bangalore Summer Million in a race which included the likes of Desperado and Shesmyscript and understandably came up short that day, finishing a poor last of 4. He then moved to Pune and scored a battling win over Jetfire in a 7 furlong maiden contest, doing just enough to prevail by a length and a half. Pitted against Class III opposition on his seasonal reappearance here, he again did just enough to win, nosing out the late finishing Bronx with Bushtops a close 3rd a length and a quarter away. He appears the type to do just enough to win his races and looks unlikely to ever win by a large margin but clearly his trainer has a very high opinion of him and he looks open to further improvement. Leigh Roche already won the 1000 Guineas with La Rondine last week and looks to continue his fairy tale first season with a back to back Guineas double here. He looks an interesting outsider
 
All in all, it boils down to a potential Match Race between Sir Cecil and Star Superior with the others battling it out for the minor honours. The unbeaten grey clearly has to be given the edge but Star Superior could run him close today and if there is any chink in his armour, then he looks the one most likely to exploit it. May the best horse win and may we have a thrilling contest come  Sunday.

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