By Major Srinivas Nargolkar
Richard Hughes, who had earlier ridden 11 winners in England during the week including three Group winners at Newmarket, rode three more winners at Bangalore today (Sunday), including Moonlight Romance, the winner of the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1. If that is impressive, his recent record in India is simply astounding. China Visit’s daughter Moonlight Romance gave him his fifth winner from his last six rides in Gr.1 classics in India. Four wins on Jacqueline and now Moonlight Romance. He certainly seems to get along well with Indian fillies!
In the morning exchanges, three of Hughes’s five mounts eased slightly in the betting including Moonlight Romance who slid to 9/4 from 2s overnight. All his rides were on horses owned by owner Rakesh Wadhwan. Wadhwan also had the favourite, the Colts’ Trial winner Sun Kingdom, sporting his colours in the Derby. Two winners earlier in the day warmed Hughes for the big ‘un and he quickly shot out on Moonlight Romance, drawn widest of the ten runners, to stalk the pacemaker. He sent the filly on as soon as they straightened for the final run-in, went ahead by two to three lengths and won comfortably by a length and a quarter from the favourite Sun Kingdom, who finished on after having lain well off the pace. It was an uncomplicated ride that Hughes chose to give the filly. The favourite had shown impressive acceleration in the closing stages of his previous races. That mercurial brilliance was missing here. Perhaps, the sight of the bracket-mate coasting along in front dampened Suraj Narredu’s finishing ardour! Another China Visit filly, Xisca, finished third seven and a half lengths behind Sun Kingdom and just a nose in front of Foreign Exchange. The time of 2 mins. 08.77 secs was moderate.
For owner Rakesh Wadhwan it was his first classic victory. A leading builder, he has splurged heavily on bloodstock in recent years. A big race win was the kind of shot in arm that he deserved. Trainer Cooji Katrak was winning his sixteenth classic here. He had earlier won three Pune Derbys with Aquilo, Venus Arising and Versaki but this was his first Derby Bangalore ever.
Moonlight Romance (China Visit – Wandering Star by Razeen) was bred at the Usha Stud and was providing that nursery with its 13th winner of the race and thus placing it way ahead of its rivals. In the last eleven runnings of the Derby Bangalore, Usha Stud has had five winners and all of them have been fillies. Usha Stud also has the distinction of having bred more winners of the Indian Derby than any other stud farm. It was a welcome win for the stud, which had gone through somewhat of a draught during the winter months.
The UAE Derby winner China Visit — a son of Red Ransom who was sixth behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Kentucky Derby of 2000 — took up stallion duties at Usha Stud in 2003. He had sired two minor classic winners earlier but Moonlight Romance, who had won the Shapoorji Pallonji Juvenile Fillies’ Championship, Gr.3, towards the end of last Mumbai season, gave him with his first Gr.1 winner. It has come in his fourth crop. Ms. Ameeta Mehra, the doyenne of Usha Stud, had recently entertained thoughts of gifting China Visit to the Indian Army. Perhaps, the lady will have a rethink now.
Wandering Star, the dam of Moonlight Romance, was a winner of the Deccan Derby, Gr.1, and Fillies’ Trial Stakes, Gr.1, in her time and had earlier produced The Bangalore Derby, Gr.1, winner Star of Windsor and the Calcutta Derby, Gr.1, runner-up Arturo, both by Steinbeck. Her three previous China Visit colts — Vangelis, Gnostic and Knight of Windsor — were nothing to write anything about. Wandering Star herself is a full-sister to classic winners Fond Fantasy, Aristotle and Accrual and traces to Qurrat-al-Ain, the ancestress of Kahyasi, Law Society, Gallant Man, Lashkari and others.
Click here for the chart (Race #8) and video, courtesy indiarace.com.