By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Handled brilliantly by Richard Hughes — a chance ride for him since the declared jockey Y.S. Srinath was indisposed — Pronto Pronto (Major Impact – Sandslash), having his first run in five months, lifted the Casino Royale Indian 2000 Guineas, Gr.1, by half a length from Picasso with Cardinal three-parts of a length back in third at Mahalakshmi in Mumbai Sunday.
Indomitable, the only filly in the field, was meant to set the pace for Picasso while Pronto Star was assigned a similar role for the winner. However, outsider Astapi ran like a scalded cat to run the pacemakers off their feet. The Bangalore challenger Speed Six was kept well up with the pace while Pronto Pronto, Cardinal and Picasso were held back. Speed Six did pick off Astapi soon after entering the straight but never managed to pinch a useful break for Cardinal, and Picasso challenged him almost immediately and went ahead. Hughes waited a while longer to unleash Pronto Pronto, and slipping him through a gap on the inside between Cardinal and Speed Six, he made it a three-way finish and prevailed close home. The time of 1.37.41 was a wee faster than 1.37.62 clocked by Alma Mater last Sunday.
This was fifth win from seven starts for Pronto Pronto, the last four being graded events. He had bagged the Gr.1 double of Bangalore Colts’ Championship Stakes — where Speed Six was just a nose behind in second — and Kingfisher Derby Bangalore during the summer and so was completing a Gr.1 hat-trick. Speed Six finished four and a half lengths back today in fourth. Six Speed, the dam of Speed Six, had won the Indian 1000 Guineas in her time but never won beyond a mile. Her full-brother Cardinal was always fighting a losing battle today while her son was the first of the principals to be beaten.
Pronto Pronto is owned by M/s. Pallon S. Mistry and D.R. Thacker and was bred at the Manjri Stud. Manjri Stud, established in 1921 as the Royal Stud Farm, is one of the oldest of nurseries in India. It has seen some changes of ownership over the years and was acquired by the Mistrys in mid-1980s. Pronto Pronto provided Manjri Stud with its 35th win of an Indian classic. Trainer Imtiaz Sait had the chesnut spot-on for Sundays race despite not having raced for five months. Only two trainers — R.R.Byramji and A.L.J. Talib — have more classic wins than Imtiaz Sait, who led his 20th. Richard Hughes arrived only this week after riding in the Hong Kong International races and won his 11th Indian classic. No foreign jockey has won as many and he is now a joint fifth with two Indian favourites, Vasant Shinde and Aslam Kaderin the overall table.
Pronto Pronto’s sire was once resident at Jonabell Farms in Kentucky and the son Roberto came to India in 2001. His dam only placed during her short racing career but is a full-sister to a black-type winner. Their sire Don’t Forget Me, a son of Ahonoora, won the English as well as the Irish 2000 Guineas. Though Pronto Pronto traces to Schiaparelli through Ruta, the immediate family is short-running. Pronto Pronto did win over the 2000 m. of the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore but that is a tight track unlike the galloping one at Mahalakshmi. It will be interesting to see how far Pronto Pronto goes on it and his chances in the Indian Derby will be clearer after the R.R. Gold Trophy is run next month. Pronto Pronto is a five generation outcross and the second Indian classic winner sired by Major Impact. The first was Diabolical, who won the Indian Derby in 2007. Diabolical’s dam was a winner of six races in England but not a single one of them was beyond the minimum five furlongs ! That should hearten Pronto Pronto’s connections.