By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
[Link to video at end of post.] The Holy Roman Emperor colt Be Safe (out of Oriental Lady, by King’s Best) cruised to a four-and-a-half length victory in the McDowell Signature Indian Derby, Gr.1, today at Mahalakshmi, and yet bettered the race and track record to give his owner Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy his seventh winner of the Blue Riband of Indian racing. It was back in 1989 that the Grand Old Man of Indian racing had led in his first winner of the race but he owned only a quarter share in the unbeaten Exhilaration. All his winners since then have been owned solely by him.
Four weeks ago, Be Safe had won the R.R. Ruia Gold Cup, Gr.2 breaking Set Alight’s track record. A natural lead-up for the Derby, that race has acquired something of a jinxed reputation because no winner of the Ruia has won the Derby this millennium though several did so earlier. Be Safe was essaying the 2400 m. distance for the first time today whereas Tiger Tops, Quasar, and Bold Majesty had won regional Classics over 2400 m. in January. Besides, only one of Holy Roman Emperor’s sons with a rating of 100-plus has a win over 2400 m. and that came in Bahrain. Because of these two factors, the winner started at 68/100, which is more than what his form — eight wins from nine starts — warranted.
Drawn in stall No.1 in the thirteen-horse field on the inside, Be Safe found himself momentarily in front but Shivalik Showers, the pacemaker of Shivalik Storm, the only horse to have beaten Be Safe, quickly took over. Top Commander, Be Safe’s pacemaker, moved up after a sluggish start and was right behind Shivalik Showers as they raced down the backstretch, and The General, trainer Mallesh Narredu’s pacemaker for Be Safe and Quasar, was a close third. With Shivalik Showers being kept honest by those on his heels, fast fractions were cut. The front runners fell away as they came into the straight and Suraj Narredu atop the winner had no hesitation in sending his mount into the lead. Be Safe, without being touched by a whip, sailed away for a bloodless victory. The Villoo Poonawalla Indian Oaks, Gr.1 winner Tiger Tops, ridden with more restraint by Colm O’Donoghue than last time out, finished second ahead of Quasar — winner of the Calcutta and Hyderabad Derbies in January — with the Mastercraftsman filly Aquamarine another neck behind in fourth. The time of 2.27.71 was faster than 2.28.05 which Alaindair clocked last year. For the jockey Suraj Narredu and his trainer/uncle Mallesh Narredu it was the first taste of Indian Derby success though Mallesh Narredu had ridden Indictment to a victory in 1997 while Suraj’s father Satish was aboard Amazing Bay, Dr. Ramaswamy’s first winner in his own colours, in 1996.
Be Safe is the second Indian Derby winner bred at Hazara Stud following Super Storm in 2013. His dam Oriental Lady (King’s Best – Otaiti by Sadler’s Wells) is bred on the same cross as the Epsom Derby winner Workforce and he goes back to the famous matron Plucky Liege. Be Safe’s dam died after foaling a bay filly in 2012 and a chestnut filly in 2013 to the Rahy horse Dancing Forever who himself is no more. Both the fillies were exported to U.S.A. in October last year.
Click here to see video.
[India is a Part 2 country for IFHA Grades, and her Graded races are listed here for informational purposes.The primary Indian Classics are the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, Derby, and Oaks contested at Mahalakshmi racecourse in Mumbai and the St. Leger in Pune in September.]