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.)
In 1976-77, Squanderer, one of India’s all-time great horses, went through his Classic year with a string of nine unbeaten runs. Today (Sept. 24), Desert God emulated Squanderer as he won the Gourmet Renaissance Indian St. Leger, Gr.1 over 2800 m. at Pune, decimating his six rivals and winning by 7 3/4 lengths in a time of 2.56.75. Desert God (Burden of Proof – Running Flame, by Steinbeck) started as a 55/100 favourite. He is owned by trainer S. Padmanabhan and his wife Sharmila Padmanabhan’s Radiant Bloodstock — which bred the chestnut colt — while Col. Swapan Bhadra also has share in him.
The Indian St. Leger was Squanderer’s ninth and last start of the year. Desert God could well break Squanderer’s record if he is brought out for either the Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2 or the R.W.I.T.C., Ltd. Gold Trophy, Gr.2 next month. On current form, he should romp home in whichever one he chooses. Today’s win took Desert God’s career earnings well past the Rs. 70 million mark, a record in India. There were seven runners and the outsider Jigigsaw streaked away to the front as the gates opened while the favourite was a bit sluggishly away. Jigsaw ran with gay abandon to be fifteen lengths ahead of Desert God at the halfway stage. A. Sandesh, astride Desert God, did not panic and slowly reined in the tearaway frontrunner to be upsides with 600 m. to go. He then simply waltzed away to a bloodless victory as Colombiana came through the struggling chasers and just went past Jigsaw in the closing stages. Squanderer’s win 39 years also gave him the Indian Triple Crown. He had earlier won, like Desert God, the Indian Derby, Indian Turf Invitation Cup, President of India Gold Cup and Bangalore St. Leger. Desert God, having started his year in Calcutta where he won the Calcutta Derby, Gr.1, missed out on the Indian Triple Crown.
Desert God’s dam Running Flame was also owned the Padmanabhans and trained by S. Padmanabhan. She counted the Indian Oaks, Gr.1, Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 and President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1 among her 10 wins. She was the favourite to win the Indian Derby, Gr.1 in which she ran third. She was also first past the post in the Indian St. Leger, Gr.1 but was relegated on a successful objection. By winning the Indian Derby and Indian St. Leger, Desert God has salvaged family honour. The Usha Stud-bred Running Flame was then sent to U.S.A. where she raced mostly on the West Coast without winning. She was past her best by then. After being covered by Silver Hawk, she moved to England/Ireland. Her foals abroad were of not much account. She returned to India in foal to Choisir and was stationed at Kunigal Stud. The Choisir colt was named Borsalino and won the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 and Vijay Textiles Deccan Derby, Gr.1 while Sur La Tete, a full-sister to Desert God, bagged the Golconda Oaks, Gr.2. She then left Kunigal Stud and died earlier this year at Poonawalla Farms. Running Flame’s third dam, the Nashua mare Nalee, will be well known to American readers.
While at Kunigal, Running Flame consistently visited the Fairy King horse Burden of Proof, who, too, passed away a couple of months ago. At the time of his death, Burden of Proof had stacked up a record which placed him fifth in the all-time list of stallions in India. His third dam was Princequillo’s daughter Princessnesian; another familiar name to the Americans.
Click here to view the race.