If Becket had thwarted Jacqueline in the last stride in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1, earlier this month, he was at the receiving end of a similar coup by the filly Change of Luck in the Casino Royale Indian St.Leger, Gr.1, at Mahalakshmi today. The St. Leger distance of 2800m demands that the field goes past the winning post twice and as the five runners went away from the stands Mighty Crusader, leading by about eight lengths then, probably thought that the race was over and stopped galloping. So Washington Irvine found himself in the front with Native Knight, Change of Luck and Becket following at intervals. Suraj Narredu, who had ridden a splendidly patient race on Becket in the Invitation, suddenly hustled the favourite into action with full five furlongs to go—a manoeuvre reminiscent of his uncle Mallesh on Set Alight in last year’s Indian Derby—and was the first to enter the straight. Though Srinath on Change of Luck moved quickly in his wake, Becket seemed to be holding the filly at bay till he started drifting from the rail, shortened his stride and was caught right at the wire. Native Knight, still a maiden but placed in four Gr.1 races, was only a length behind in third. The time of 3.03.55 was slow for the Indian St. Leger is generally run in under 3 minutes.
Stunning—she returned Rs. 84 on the Tote—is the only word to describe the victory of Change of Luck; she is by Placerville and her dam is called Stunning. Stunning (by Ascot Knight) was the foal mare Ratifia was carrying when the Poonawalla Farms imported the mare from Canada in 1990. Change of Luck, who started racing as Gypsy Magic, is the fourth Gr.1 classic winner of her dam as she is a full-sister to Smart Chieftan (Indian Triple Crown), Classical Act (Derby Bangalore) and Southern Empire (Indian Turf Invitation Cup). Another daughter of Ratifia that Poonawallas imported later is Rasant (dam of Thunder Blitz and A B Noodle in U.S.A.) and she threw the Golconda Derby winner Rain Splasher to Placerville. This is the Schiaparelli family that has excelled at Poonawalla Farms, earlier with the mother-and-daughter pair of Charenzaccio and Schiaparelli.
Change of Luck, who like Becket is trained by Padmanabhan, carried the colours of the Poonawalla family, and she foiled Sohna Stud’s bid for a clean sweep of the Indian classics. (Had Becket won, it would also have been the first occasion when all classics fell to foals imported in-utero). It was the fourteenth success in the race for Poonawalla Farms and sixth for their premier stallion Placerville. Jockey Srinath had earlier ridden two Indian St. Legers winners and Padmanabhan had also saddled two but Running Flame—later a runner on the West Coast—lost out on an objection. Ironically, Srinath was astride Running Flame that day !