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Preview: Kingfisher Derby Bangalore field is wide open

By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Written for IndiaRace.com and published here with permission

Sunday the 10th July will see the 50th renewal of Derby Bangalore—sponsored by Kingfisher since 1988—and if there has been any trumpeting by authorities to highlight the historic occasion, it has been muted at best. Mount Everest, the very first winner of the race in 1962 when it was called the Kunigal Derby and run over a mile, went on to annex the inaugural Indian Turf Invitation Cup. In subsequent years, the race has lived up to its reputation of unveiling the future stars and is arguably one of the best three races in the country. Thirty-four Derby Bangalore winners have gone on to win classics in the winter and as many as 16 have won either the Indian Derby or the Invitation Cup to cement its importance in the Indian racing calendar.

Although a reliable pointer to winter classics over a trip, the Derby Bangalore has been won on occasions by top class milers like the mudlark Galilee—who got his favourite soft going in the Colts’ Trial as well as the Derby—Mauritius Pearl, Camino, Camineto, Snow Dew, Bourbon King and Aboline while Red Cockade and Six Speed finished as runners-up. The start is right opposite the stands and the first bend comes even as the field is scrambling for positions. By the time they have sorted themselves out, they are at the 1400m marker and from there to the final bend there is a steady descent. It is a much easier 2000m than at Mahalakshmi.

Most of the likely runners in this year’s field look cast in the miler mould but four that have staying pedigrees—Star Marquess, Forever Glory, At The Helm and Lad King. The last three named have a fair bit to find on form. So, in the absence of a contender possessing the right amount of class and stamina—on paper at least—the field could be larger than the previous average of 11.

In its 49 runnings so far, the Derby Bangalore has been won 23 times—15 colts and 8 fillies—by earlier winners of the Trials held  in June. It’s coincidence this year that Lovely Kiss and Pronto Pronto who won the Fillies’ and Colts’ races were not in original entries and will face the starter only if the connections put them in as final entries. Lovely Kiss, a daughter of the freshman sire sensation Rebuttal, won her race more comfortably than Pronto Pronto and is rated higher.  Rebuttal has done everything—and much more—so far than could have been expected or hoped for. A son of Mr. Greeley, he won his maiden at 1200m in England and later posted a victory over a mile when sent to U.S.A. His pedigree does not suggest that he would have been comfortable over much longer. Mr. Greeley himself and his two other sire sons El Corredor and Reel Buddy—banished to Greece after a short stint in England—have not had many good winners beyond a mile. Lovely Kiss and her paternal half-brother Tiberius have respectable  dam lines and their chances cannot be ruled out in a field largely devoid staying propensity.

Pronto Pronto caught Speed Six in the last stride in the Colts’ race. He is by the Roberto horse Major Impact, who stood in the US before coming to Manjri Stud. He has been a good sire of sprinter-milers but his son Diabolical—out of a mare who won all her six races at 1000m—stunned one and all by winning the Golconda and Indian Derbys and later the Queen Elizabeth Cup. Speed Six is by Burden of Proof who has sired two previous winners of Derby Bangalore—Fantabulous King in 2004 and Aboline in 2009—while his dam is that quicksilver sprinter-miler Six Speed. Haunting Beauty, the grandam of Speed Six, was a winner of five races in England up to 1300m came to India  in 1995. Beautiful Ballad, the grandam of Pronto Pronto, won her only race in England over 1000m and arrived two years later. So far, the produce of these two mares and their daughters have won 57 races in India but not a single one  them has been beyond a mile !

Only two got-abroads—Flirting Vision in 1991 and Supervite in 1998—have been successful whereas we could have four in the fray this year. Super Duper (Keltos – Supercal) is by a champion miler out of a well-performed mare who won only upto 1400m. Super Duper is a half-brother to three winners abroad, two of whom have won beyond a mile in equivalent of our Class VB and later were sent hurdling. Vijay Keerti (Aussie Rules – Cielo Vodkamartini), like Super Duper trained by L.V.R. Deshmukh, is by a classic miler. His dam visited top Coolmore stallion Montjeu twice and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Barathea once. The three foals that resulted are winners over hurdles. Preordained (Choisir – Go Out Backwards), withdrawn twice after unshipping her rider, was on her better behaviour on the Fillies’ Championship day and ran a decent third to Lovely Kiss. Her dam, by the Epsom Derby winner Dr. Devious, is a half-sister Prix Corrida, Gr.3, victress Acceleration and from the immediate family in India of Aperitivo (Stayers’ Cup, Gr.1) and Secret Memory (Pune Derby, Gr.1), both by Diffident. There is plenty of stamina in the dam line. The average winning distance of the produce of the brilliant sprinter Choisir is under a mile and it remains to be seen which side of her pedigree Preordained takes after.

In last 15 years, Razeen has provided a record six winners of the race while Placerville came up with three. Both these great stallions died earlier in February and it seems probable that they may not be represented in this year’s renewal.  Aided by Razeen’s half-a-dozen, Usha Stud has the honour of topping the list with 13 winners with Grey Gaston contributing four, Treasure Leaf two and China Visit being responsible for Moonlight Romance last year. Click here to read about Moonlight Romance’s win last year’s race, with Richard Hughes aboard .

Nine favourites have been successful in the last 25 runnings. The average of 36 % is not drastically at variance with the overall success rate of public fancies.

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