Mumbai: Months of hard work paid off for Southern Regent while others were left rueing their luck shortly after 7 minutes past 4 pm, on Sunday, when the S. Ganapathy-trainee won the 2,400m McDowell Indian Derby handsomely.
B. Prakash partnered the winner and collected a whopping purse of about Rs 43 lakh. The much talked about trainer Cooji Katrak's brave filly, Venus Arising, failed to make it to the first four. To say that Venus became another victim of tackling two Derby trips within a fortnight will be an unfair remark as her fair sex stablemate, Farida Kahlo, who had also contested the Oaks and placed a faraway behind the 6-4 favourite in that race, missed the Derby honours by three lengths.
Farida Kahlo also raised hopes of victory till 150m from the wire when she was easily passed by the MAM Ramaswamy-owned winner. But Farida Kahlo fought on bravely to retain the second place from Flavious Victor, who looked bone dry during the pre-race paddock-parade, and the Bangalore-hope Andreyan who was given an atrocious ride by jockey C. Alford.
The 6-1 second favourite was seen galloping on the wide out, and almost in the rear, throughout the trip and yet he lost the Derby by a shade under four lengths. There did not appear to be any hard luck story in an otherwise well-contested race. Prakash was a cool customer on the 10-1 chance as he settled the Usha Stud-breed in ninth berth, and along the rails, while his yard-mate Ministrel Heights led a merry dance upfront while Petronius Maximus, AlQamar, and a hoard of other middle-distance runners tested their hooves behind the pace-setter.
In fact, those with having meaningful chance of winning the Derby were seen galloping in close proximity of Southern Regentor far behind. The other reason for Prakash to stick to the rails was his draw of 'one' which becomes a gross disadvantage in a big field and over a distance. Jockeys on horses drawn along rails always need to remain vigilant as tiring leaders fall back on them but Prakash has been too long in the game to counter such eventualities. He also knew that most of the tiring leaders tend to shift out leaving wide galloping room along the near-side rials.
However, there was not such luck for Prakash in the final 400 metres. It prompted him to weave his way through the tiring front runners without interfering with the chances of others. He succeeded inside the last furlong when Southern Regent produced a game gallop to collar Frida Kahlo. Once Kahlo was taken care of Prakash punched the air.
Prakash and Ganapathy also claimed the rich Breeders Produce Stakes for juveniles when their Flashing Star came with a sustained run on the wide out to bury hopes of trainer Pesi Shroff's course-favourite Colour Bearer. Favourite, however, found the going tough during the afternoon. The nine-event card was largely ruled by the long priced winners, and the likes of Mehmaans and Lapwings, who attracted substantial support in the betting, just about managed to score. The only favourite who justified his odds was Adam's Star.