Dr. Vijay Mallya and Usha Stud ended their draught of “classics” — neither had won even one of the sixteen, including the regional versions, since the start of the winter season in November — with the filly Smashing (Holy Roman Emperor – Exquisite by Galileo) winning the Zoom Indian Oaks, Gr.1, in taking style from the Radio Mirchi Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1, victress Alma Mater, who finished almost five lengths away. Razeen filly Volterra, having just the second start of her career, was third and the maiden Neath (Major Impact – Macrihanish by Razeen) finished fourth. The verdict was 4 3/4, 1, 4 and the time of 2.31.45 meant that only two of the previous 69 winners would have finished ahead of Smashing. The first three home were trained by Pesi Shroff, for whom it was his third Indian Oaks victory in six years.
In truth, the ten fillies who went to the post were lacking in the right combination of class and stamina. The pace in the first half of the race was slow and it became a sprint in the latter half. Three of the first five fillies in the Indian 1000 last month were in the fray and of them Smashing (5th) and Alma Mater (the winner) filled the first two places on sheer class. That the inexperienced Volterra and and the maiden Neath should grab the other two places in the frame underscored the class and stamina deficiency. If Smashing and Alma Mater run in the Indian Derby in a fortnight’s time, they will face a much stiffer task.
Take nothing away from the winner, though. The day hadn’t begun too well for the Mallya camp with a winner in the maiden race losing on an objection and Set Ablaze, a full-sister Set Alight, finishing dead last in the other graded race in the under-card. Unperturbed by those happenings,the Frenchman Anthony Crastus rode a cool race, keeping the filly well off the pace, finding the right openings, grabbing the lead from Voleterra — who was always well up and had taken over the running coming into the straight — with about 300 m. to go and drawing away in the closing stages. Alma Mater — not unexpectly on her pedigree — failed to reproduce last to first surge of her previous win and just pegged back Volterra whose third was commendable for one so inexperienced.
An Usha-bred had not won a black-type race since Hills and Stars won the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1, on 9 October last year and had gone through probably the most barren period in its recent history. Exquisite, the unraced dam of Smashing, was picked up by Usha Stud for 120,000 euros at Goff’s November Sale in 2007. She was in-foal to Holy Roman Emperor and so carried the very successful Danehill-Sadler’s Wells cross through two sons of the Coolmore stalwarts. Exquisite’s Danehill Dancer half-sister Abbeyside won the Listed Prix Yacowlef over five furlongs and was narrowly beaten by Silver Frost — who subsequently won the Pouled’ Essai des Poulains, Gr.1 — in Prix Cabourg, Gr.3, over six furlongs. Her Spinning World half-sister Flat Spin won the Blue Square Interactive TV Easter Stakes, L, over a mile. This is an essentially speedy family — Ancient Regime, Cricket Ball, Rami, Crack Regiment, Matelot and others in immediate removes — which goes back to the St. Simon mare Santa Nomis. The proximity of Danehill and Galileo in Smashing’s pedigree has obviously added class to the inherent speed.