(The following post was filed from India by Maj. Srinivas Nargolkar, former keeper of the Indian Stud Book.)
By Major Srinivas Nargolkar
The rather intriguingly named Derby Bangalore, to be run on Sunday, may well be the last; for some time, at least. The Bangalore Turf Club is under orders to vacate the prime land where it conducts its racing, owned by the government, in the Garden City centre. This is not the first instance in India of racing coming under threat from the government, and in most cases some solution has been found. The optimists are banking on history being repeated.
The race was first run in 1962 for the 3-year-olds over a mile and was called the Kunigal Derby. Two years later, the distance was increased to 2000 meters. The name, too, underwent a change as it came to be called Bangalore Derby. Bangalore raced initially only during the summer months but when the winter season was ushered in in 1974, there had to be a “proper” Derby over a mile and a half. Although this race was duly framed, it was illogically called the Arc de Triomphe; illogical because it was confined to the classic crop and was not a weight-for-age event like the Longchamp event from which it derived its name. The authorities had a rethink in the late 1980s and the Arc de Triomphe became the Bangalore Derby while the earlier race was called Derby Bangalore! (It was claimed, by the authorities, that it would remove confusion !)
Whatever the nomenclature — the common racegoer simply refers to the Bangalore Summer Derby and Bangalore Winter Derby — the race is the most significant racing event of the summer months. The very first winner of the race, Mount Everest, went on to win the inaugural Indian Turf Invitation Cup and the race has over the years become an important pointer to future stars. In the last 35 years, thirteen Derby Bangalore winners have gone on to win either the Indian Derby or the Indian Turf Invitation Cup.
The Fillies’ Trial Stakes and Colts’ Trial Stakes — run in June over a mile — are the lead-up races to Derby Bangalore. Nineteen of the last 35 Derby Bangalore winners have won either of the Trials. This year, the Burden of Proof filly Siachen, bred at Vijay Mallya’s Kunigal Stud, won the Fillies’ Trial from Moonlight Romance (by China Visit) and Eloise (by Glory of Dancer). Sun Kingdom, a Royal Kingdom colt bred at Shyam Ruia’s Equus Stud, claimed the colts’ version from Immense (by Gaswar) and Ciel Indienne (by Burden of Proof). Siachen and Ciel Indienne are not among the ten declared runners but the other four horses are once again likely to be in the thick of things at the business end while the Placerville colt Ordained One, who is working exceptionally, is a possible outsider.
At this time of the year, it often rains in Bangalore and renders the going soft. Although the race is over 2000 m., the configuration of the track — the first bend comes immediately after the start and there is a downhill slope in the backstretch — allows good milers to get the trip.
Sun Kingdom (Suraj Narredu up) is likely to start as the favourite but as Richard Hughes is dashing down after the Newmarket July Meeting to take the ride on Moonlight Romance, the filly may well attract late support. Both Sun Kingdom and Moonlight Romance are owned by builder Rakesh Wadhwan with the colt in Irfan Ghatala’s yard and the filly being trained by Cooji Katrak.