By Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
(Ed. note: link to video of race below. Grades of races listed for informational purposes only. All Indian graded races qualify as Listed black type internationally.)
The G1 Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby winner Desert God (Burden of Proof – Running Flame) added the G1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup to his tally by holding the last year’s winner Quasar (Seeking The Dia – Belle Jour) by a neck in a nail-biting finish at Chennai yesterday, March 6. Be Safe (Holy Roman Emperor – Oriental Lady), second by a neck to Quasar last year at Mumbai, was third, four and a quarter lengths behind and just a short-head in front of the filly Angel Dust (Win Legend – Angelique).
With two late withdrawals on veterinary grounds, eleven runners bounded out of the gates with 2400 meters in front of them to the wire and it was Be Safe’s bracket-mate Smart Strider who eventually pulled to the front and led them at a good pace. Quasar stalked the pace in about third position while Desert God, David Allan up, held a good position in the midfield on the rails. Be Safe and Angel Dust were content to be at the rear of the field. Smart Strider’s mission ended rounding the final bend and young Yash Narredu sent Quasar on, exactly as he had done last year, but Allan brought Desert God along and the two fought every yard of most of the last quarter. Allan’s greater experience and poise and the 4 kgs. that the Padmanabhan-trained colt was getting from the older Quasar proved crucial in the end. Desert God thus upheld the supremacy of the Classic generation for the fourth year running since the race was opened to older horses. Quasar and Yash Narredu lost little in defeat for they gallantly gave everything they had. The time of 2.28.33 was the second fastest recorded on the track.
Quasar’s victory over Be Safe last year, when both horses were trained by Malesh Narredu, had generated some controversy with most of the latter’s supporters feeling let down. The two met again — after Be Safe changed stables — in the Bangalore Summer season when Quasar confirmed his superiority twice. That was put down to Be Safe having developed some physical problems. Another change of stables, a change of location to Chennai, an easy win on his return to action and some good track work saw his horde of fans back their favourite down to 3/1 from 5s overnight while Quasar remained more or less steady at 9/4. Be Safe may have recovered from his physical problems but what he lacked was race fitness and was well beaten today. The two will not faceoff again for Quasar goes to his place of birth, the Hazara Stud, to take up stallion duties. Hopefully, the passionately heated debate on the merits on the two stalwarts will now subside.
Four years back, Padmanabhan had that wonderful filly In The Spotlight. Desert God has followed — almost — in the path trodden by her but being a colt has had to take a sidestep or two. Both In The Spotlight and Desert God have won the G1 Deccan Derby, G1 Calcutta Derby, and the G1 Indian Derby before winning the Invitation Cup. A good summer and monsoon run will see Desert God eclipsing Quasar’s record of stakes won. Details of Desert God’s pedigree were given when he won the Indian Derby and you may access it by clicking on his name in the first paragraph.
The Invitation Cup weekend featuring four G1 races and a G2 race returned to Chennai after a bit of a hiatus and was dominated by the produce of the Kunigal and Usha studs that have been going at each other, hammer and tongs, since the start of the year. Before the Kunigal Stud struck back with Desert God, Usha Stud had picked up the G1 The Hindu Sprinters’ Cup over 1200 meters with Adam (Multidimensional – Adesina; dam full-sister to the dam of dual Sprinters’ Cup winner Attila), G1 Maj. P.K. Mehra Super Mile Cup with the Indian 1000 Guineas-Indian Oaks winning filly Myrtlewood (Multidimensional – Adamile), and the G2 Suresh Mahindra Multi-Million over 1400 meters through Your Royal Majesty (Multidimensional – You Are My Miracle). Needless to say, the three Multidimensional winners are all out of Razeen mares. Myrtlewood’s full-sister Amelia had won this very race, which commemorates the memory of the founder of the Usha Stud, at Hyderabad two years ago while their dam Adamile had herself won it on this track back in 2001. Your Royal Majesty had won the same race last year also.
It was a splendid weekend for trainer Pesi Shroff, who saddled winners of three of the plums — Adam, Myrtlewood and Your Royal Majesty — apart from sending out two other winners on the undercard. There was a keen tussle for jockey’s honours. P.S. Chouhan rode two G1 winners in Tintinnabulation (the 2013 Invitation Cup winner who picked up the G1 Villoo Poonawalla Stayers’ Cup) and Myrtlewood apart from having a brace in the other races. He was, however, outpointed by P. Trevor, who rode five winners over the weekend including Adam and Your Royal Majesty.
To see the race, click here.