(Major Srinivas Nargolkar, former Keeper of the Indian Stud Book, reports from India that dual Guineas winner Jacqueline added the Oaks to her sparkling resume today with Richard Hughes aboard. Jacqueline is trained by former champion jockey Pesi Shroff, who last season conditioned the great Indian filly Set Alight.)
Jacqueline (King Charlemagne – Talita Kumi) toyed with her nine rivals to win the HDIL sponsored Indian Oaks, Gr.1, today at Mahalaxmi in Mumbai. The Pesi Shroff-trained filly bred at the Sohna Stud was ridden in identical, familiar fashion by Richard Hughes, who was unperturbed to be at the back of the field till they straightened up for the final run. Jacqueline’s bracket-mate — Alize — had set only a moderate gallop, covering the first 1200 meters in about 1:19 so that it became a sprint thereafter. The Mahalaxmi straight is a good 600 meters and Hughes had plenty of time and a filly well within herself under him. They rounded the final bend mid-track but Hughes dexterously weaved a way to the rails, challenged Astral Flash on the inside coming into the final 200 meters and went away for a two-length victory without Jacqueline having to come off the bridle. Despite the early slow pace, the final time of 2.32.27 meant that only two faster Indian Oaks have been run this millennium, one of them being Riyasat’s last year when the race was run in March, a time when the track runs fast.
This, in many ways, was a repeat of the Indian 1000 Guineas. Astral Flash again finished second, a quarter of a length closer but never looking like a winner. Two fillies by the Mr. Prospector horse Placerville — Amazing Ray and Leave It To Me (coming to Mumbai after winning the Oaks in Hyderbad) — filling the other places in the frame. Change of Luck, third in the Indian 1000 Guineas, did not run here and in her absence, Amazing Ray, fourth earlier, moved up to third. The margin between Astral Flash (also trained by Pesi Shroff but owned by Dr. Vijay Mallya, in whose silks Set Slight raced) and Amazing Ray was two and a quarter lengths in the 1000 while here it was slightly extended to three and a quarter. The form was thus well upheld.
Jacqueline becomes the fourth filly to bag the first three classics. Her Majesty (’47-’48), Gamble For Love (’49-’50) and Highland Rule (’79-’80) have previously gone into the Indian Derby without dropping a classic but none of them was able to win the Blue Riband. So Jacqueline will have the chance on 7 February to either create or repeat history.
What appears certain at this point is that owner Mr. Vijay Shirke and trainer Pesi Shroff have a firm grip on the big race. The Calcutta Derby winner Bruckner and last week’s eye-catching Ruia Gold Cup winner Onassis also run in Mr. Vijay Shirke’s colours — both trained by Shroff — and look certain starters in the Indian Derby. Jacqueline’s win today must have gladdened Mr. Shirke’s heart because the Indian Oaks was the only Classic he had not won before.
On Tuesday, trainer Padmanabhan runs Mr. Haresh Mehta’s unbeaten Becket in the Bangalore Derby and you can be sure that both Mr. Shirke and Shroff will be watching that race with interest. If Becket wins with authority, it will give them something to ponder about. Mr. Haresh Mehta also owned Versaki who tasted his first defeat in the Indian 2000 Guineas. Versaki (by Verglas) broke down in a mock race on the Ruia Gold Cup day and has subsequently been put down.
Jacqueline is certain to start as the favourite for the Indian Derby on 7 February. Not a single favourite has won the Indian Derby this millenium so surely the favourite’s time has come. However, as any casino buff will tell you, nine straight reds does not improve the statistical chance of black on the tenth spin of the wheel. It started as a quip — “Onassis and Jacqueline locked together at the wire”; does it have a prophetic ring to it?
See the race below, courtesy Indiarace.com, and click here for the chart (Race 7) from Indiarace.com.
Click here for a recap of the 1000 Guineas and click here for the 2000 Guineas. Click here for a post on Sohna Stud, where Jacqueline was foaled.