By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
(Ed. note: link to video of race is below. India is a Part II country and grades of races are listed for informational purposes only. All Indian graded races, however, qualify as Listed black type internationally.)
Quasar (Seeking The Dia – Belle Jour) clung on by a fast-diminishing neck to hold Be Safe and win the Omkar Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at the Mahalakshmi race course in Mumbai on 7 March. The race should have been run on 1 March but unseasonal rains caused the postponement. Last year at Hyderabad, too, the rains had played the spoilsport.
The result sent shock waves around the course for just last month over the same course Be Safe had contemptuously disposed of Quasar in the McDowell Signature Indian Derby, Gr.1 by almost five lengths in record timing without getting out of cruise mode. The reversal of form caused much anguish and a minor agitation since both Quasar and Be Safe are trained by Malesh Narredu. The winner was ridden by his son Yash and Be Safe by his nephew Suraj.
Backed down to 45/100 on the books, Be Safe looked edgy in the paddock and was sweating up. He fought for his head and Suraj Narredu dropped him back but the colt never really settled. By the time they had straightened for the final run-in, Be Safe was about eight lengths behind Quasar on the wide outside and though he finished with a tremendous flourish, he was unable to catch the winner despite the race being run almost a second slower than the Indian Derby.
Quasar had won the Calcutta Derby and the Golconda Derby at Hyderabad in January and when he lined up against Be Safe for the Indian Derby on first Sunday in February, it was his third Gr.1 start over 2400 m. in the space of just three weeks. The travel fatigue and two hard races probably meant that he was not at his physical best that day. The five week restful spell revived him and by all accounts he not only looked better but was working brilliantly. In fact, the former ace jockey Aslam Kader, speaking on the television, mentioned that he had been most pleased by Quasar in the lead-up to the race.
Drawn 2, Quasar found himself in the early lead till Agostini, the pacemaker of Dr. Mallya’s filly Amazing Grace, took up the running around the 2000 m. mark. Quasar then settled to wait in the second spot, surged ahead at the top of the straight, pinched a useful break and held on when challened. Amazing Grace was third with last year’s winner Alaindair in fourth. The verdict was Nk, 2 1/4 and 1 3/4 and the time 2.28.73. Quasar is owned by Mr. Jaydev Mody — he had won the race with Autonomy six years ago in Hyderabad — along with M/s. Tanmay Agashe and Madhav Patankar. Both Quasar and Be Safe were bred at Mr. Nirmal Singh’s Hazara Stud, which had a splendid Invitation Cup weekend. Solomon (Rebuttal – Dhahab), who won the Atiila Sprinters’ Cup, Gr.1 in Dr. Vijay Mallya’s colours, as well An Aqcuired Taste (third in Stayer’s Cup, Gr.1) and Shivalik Storm (third in Super Mile, Gr.1) are Hazara-breds.
Malesh Narredu never won an Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 during his riding days whereas his brother Satish did. As a trainer, Malesh has got one over Satish now by saddling the 1-2 in the big race. His son Yash had his first ride in a race less than a year ago and this was his first big win.
Seeking The Dia, the sire of Quasar, is Storm Cat’s biggest earner. Born in U.S.A., he raced in Japan where he was a Gr.2 winner who twice placed second in Japan Cup (Dirt), Gr.1 and has stood at stud in Japan, U.S.A. (Kentucky as well as Florida), Chile and is now in South Korea. Belle Jour, the dam of Quasar, is by Smarty Jones, winner of the first two legs of the Triple Crown. She was sold for $15,000 at the Keeneland November Sale in 2010 and her grandam is the Champion Older Mare Sky Beauty while the next dam is a three-parts sister to the flyer Dayjur.
Astapi (Placerville- Blurr) won the Deltin Casinos Stayers’ Cup, Gr.1 easily to record back-to-back victories in the race; the Major P.K. Mehta Memorial Super Mile Cup, Gr.1 was claimed effortlessly by Zachary (Kingda Ka – Yantai) while Your Royal Highness (Multidimensional – You’re My Miracle) picked up the Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, Gr.2 in the undercard.
Horses trained in Mumbai made a clean sweep of the graded races over the extended weekend. Seeking The Dia stands abroad while Placerville and Rebuttal are no longer alive. Kingda Ka and Multidimensional are both standing in India and are from the Danehill male-line.
Click here to view the race.