Mumbai, Feb. 1: To win the 2,400m Indian Derby (Mumbai) has always been a tough proposition even for the likes of the Mallyas, the Ramaswamys and the Khaitans — the pillars of the country's thoroughbred industry. Though they always possessed the best of bloodstock, they all had to wait for some time before lady luck smiled on them. Further, for every jockey and trainer who aspires to win the mega-event at the Mahalaxmi race-ground, the Rs 41 lakh winners' stakes is only considered a bonus along with the name and fame showered on the winning professional. Tomorrow is not going to be an exception. The Derby, christened the McDowell Indian Derby a decade-and-a-half ago, will be fought with the same sporting aggression and zeal.
Classical Act, Zurbaran, Spaniard's Inn, Aldeburgh and Star Strider are considered the frontline contenders, though connections of the three fillies in the 13-horse line-up feel they are in the reckoning as much as the stronger sex. However, their looks, conformation, bloodlines and recent track records has further narrowed down my Derby selection down to first three horses mentioned at the start of the paragraph.
When Classical Act won his maiden start, jockey Pesi Shroff admitted during a chat that the Placerville-Stunning son definitely gave him a hope that he was going to be his eighth Indian Derby winner. His belief was further strengthened when the Jaggy Dhariwal-trainee virtually trotted home with the Bangalore (summer) Derby. Pesi's dream was, however, shattered when 'Classical' flopped in his preparatory race leading to the winter classics because of a lung infection of a serious kind. It happened less than 10 weeks ago and the horse has come on his own supported by a mock-race and some eye catching gallops.
However, trainer S. Padmanabhan believes a patch on lung is no bronchitis. According to him Classical Act is bound to feel the necessity for a race run. Padmanabhan feels his colt Zurbaran will be the one to beat. Just ignore his 2,000 Guineas run as the Peaks And Valleys-Cut of The Cloth son had met with a infringement during the running of the race. He bounced back into the Derby picture with the victory of the 2,000m Ruia Cup.
If it is all about little bit of speed and plenty of stamina then Spaniars Inn is the answer to tomorrow's Derby. According to trainer Vinayak, the horse is right on the footsteps of his sire Kahyasi, himself a Derby winner in England. Much like Kahyasi, Spaniards Inn has been a slow biginner and we never tries to push him hard as he would not take it, said Vinayak. The trainer also mentioned that 'Spaniards' is in his prime form now and his last two wins were gained over staying trips and without raising a sweat.
In the final analysis, it may pay to follow Zurbaran. But for his Guineas debacle, the horse has an unblemish record. With Aslam Kader in the saddle Zurbaran may do the trick.
12.45 pm: Adams Gesture 1. Cloud Nine 2. Tropic Of Fear 3.
1.15 pm: Matter Of Four 1. Kojagiri 2. Revenger 3.
1.45 pm: Auchinblae 1. Blue Butterfly 2. Speed Of Light 3.
2.15 pm: Aguilas 1. Bird Of Paradise 2. Royal Celebrity 3.
2.45 pm: Rapacious 1. Verzzano 2. La Reine 3.
3.30 pm: Decent Proposal 1. Rahil 2. Wave Of Bliss 3.
4 pm: Al Humair 1. Name Of Love 2. Senor Pele 3.
4.30 pm: Zurbaran 1. Classical Act 2. Spaniards Inn 3.
5.15 pm: Wikhed Idea 1. Jukebox 2. High Handed 3.
5.45 pm: Sonic Symphony 1. Princess Helen 2. Cajun King 3.
Day's Best: Decent Proposal Double: Adams Gesture & Aquilas