[Race videos below] The Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend is one of the high points of the Indian racing year and is held in rotation at different centres. There are four Gr. 1 contests with the Sprinters’ Cup and the Stayers’ Cup being held on Saturday, March 1, and the Super Mile Cup as well the Invitation Cup taking place on Sunday, March 2. It was the turn of Hyderabad to host the weekend this year. Saturday’s racing went off without a hitch as did half the card on Sunday. Then, an unseasonal hail storm caused the rest of the day’s racing, which included the showpieces, to be abandoned and postponed to Saturday, March 8. Hyderabad Race Club cobbled up events to ensure an eight-race fare and decided to shift races to the Monsoon Track as it continued to rain on and off during the week.
On the first Saturday, the Poonawalla Farms-bred Astapi (Placerville – Blurr) won the Stayers’ Cup, Gr.1 from Wind Stream and last year’s winner, the eight-year-old favourite Native Knight (by Placerville). Wind Stream is an Usha Stud-bred by Steinbeck, so the first three finishers were sired by sons of Mr. Prospector. Astapi hit the front early in the straight and was soon challenged by Wind Stream, who drew level but could not forge ahead while the old-stager Native Knight warmed up late to finish just half a length behind the front pair who were separated by a head. Young Altamash Ahmed saddled the 20/1 winner for the Rattonseys — they won back to back Indian Derbies with Hotstepper and Antonios a few years ago — who was ridden by J.H. Christopher. The winner’s dam Blurr won the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million, Gr.1 in her time and traces to Aurelie, which would have pleased Tegbir Brar for his Dashmesh Stud once had a virtual monopoly on the best mares from this family. Aurelie, a daughter of Anne de Bretagne (ancestress of Ile de Bourbon, Quest For Fame, Astarabad and that tribe), was bred by Mr. R.B. Strasburger in France and imported to India by his good friend the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in the 1950s.
The Sprinters’ Cup, Gr.1 saw another close finish — hd, shd, 1 length — with the eight-year-old gelding Nefyn (Senure – Machrihanish) prevailing over Dancing Prances, Speed Six, and the favourite Mariinsky, a winner of the Deltin Casinos Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 in December. Nefyn, bred at the Manjri Stud, thus repeated his last year’s victory in the same race. The Nureyev horse Senure, a United Nations Handicap, Gr.1 winner in Juddmonte colours, had earlier sired Oasis Star, who had also won back-to-back Sprinters’ Cups. While Oasis Star liked racing upfront, Nefyn prefers coming with powerful late dash. Veteran trainer Bezan Chenoy has raced Mr. Dilip Thomas’s horse very sparingly and this was his eleventh win from 20 starts. Nefyn was piloted by Jimmy Fortune just like last year. Mr. Dilip Thomas, a keen golfer, is wont to name his horses after famous golf courses. Interestingly, the Rattonseys owned Blurr during her racing days while Machrihanish, who once held the mile track record at Mumbai, raced in Mr. Dilip Thomas’s colours.
The three Graded races run on the second Saturday — Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million, Gr.2 is the feature of the under card — all resulted in new track records being established. It started with Amelia (Multidimensional – Adamile) winning the Major P.K. Mehra Memorial Super Mile, Gr.1. The filly sported the colours of Ms. Ameeta Mehra, current owner and daughter of the Usha Stud founder, Major P.K. Mehra, so it was an appropriate victory, and the filly did so without being touched with a whip. In fact, the saddle on Amelia had slipped rounding the final bend and jockey S. Zervan was more concerned about that so he rode her just hands and heels. Amelia’s dam had won this very race in 2001. The favourite here was Dr. Mallya’s filly Mariinsky who had run in the Sprinters’ Cup the previous Saturday. Amelia had been a faller in Mariinsky’s Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1. She has since come out and won three races in space of five weeks so her trainer Pesi Shroff deserves all the plaudits.
The trainer of the meeting, however, was Altamash Ahmed as Alaindair (Multidimensional – God’s Grace) confirmed his Indian Derby superiority without any alarms in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Surprisingly, Murioi was installed as the favourite but the son Dubawi had a horrific fall around the mile marker, broke his forelegs and had to be put down. Jockey Y.S. Srinath, who had won the race on Autonomy when it was last run in Hyderabad, stuck to the Indian Derby script and rode a similar race. Agostini, midfield in the Derby, improved to be second here ahead of last year’s winner Tintinnabulation and Starry Eyes. The verdict was 1 1/2,, 2 1/4 and 1 1/2 and the clock stopped at 2.29.87.
(Courtesy Hyderabad Race Club)
With two wins, a second and a third, Usha Stud took the honours comfortably. Alaindair became just the seventh horse to bag the grand treble of Bangalore Summer Derby, Indian Derby and the Invitation Cup. Four of those seven winners are Usha-bred. Three of the first four finishers in the Invitation Cup were out of Razeen mares while the fourth placed Tintinnabulation is a ‘got-abroad’. Winners of the three of the four Gr.1 events — Alaindair, Amelia and Nefyn — are also from daughters of Razeen as is Wind Stream who was beaten just a head in the Stayers’ Cup. Razeen looks assured of the Champion Broodmare Sire at the end of the year.