Jockey David Allan (left) guides Hall of Famer first across the finish line in a memorable Indian Derby race at Mahalaxmi yesterday. Pic/SAMEER MARKANDE
Almost doing a Chaitanya Chakram, the last horse to win the Indian Derby in a start-to-finish manner in 1987, trainer S Padmanabhan's Hall Of Famer staked a serious claim to racing's hall of fame when she posted a meritorious victory in the Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr 1), partnered by Signature, at the Mahalaxmi racecourse yesterday.
There were just too many similarities between the two Derby winners spaced three decades apart. Both were grey horses, both started as second favourites, both came to Mahalaxmi from another center, both went almost start-to-finish, and both were momentarily challenged by the crowd's favourite who looked menacing at one stage, but both warded off the threat in style and refused to concede.
The only difference was that Chaitanya Chakram had hit the front from the word go, whereas David Allan astride Hall Of Famer was forced to take up the running soon after start as he found the pace was too slow for Hall Of Famer's liking.
Jockey David Allan atop the Indian Derby winner, filly Hall of Famer with the owner T Brar (right) and trainer S Padmanabhan (extreme left) at the Mahalaxmi Race Course yesterday
Trainer Padmananbhan, who saddled Hall Of Famer to accomplish a back-to-back Derby double after winning the same race last year with Desert God, told mid-day after the race that jockey David Allan did the right thing. “We had felt slow pace would suit Serjeant At Arms,” he said, “but we did not have our own pacemaker in the race, so when Lucas went out soon after the start, David did the right thing by setting his own pace.”
Hall Of Famer did all the running to bring the field into view, even as Sandesh kept the favourite Serjeant At Arms in mid-bunch, about half a dozen lengths away from the pace.
Serjeant did move up dramatically to challenge Hall Of Famer, but the moment he came within a length of Hall Of Famer, David Allan dug deep into the filly's reserves and she responded magnificently to his urging, finally almost skipping away in the last stride to spare a length to the beaten favourite.
Tegbir Brar, scion of the Dashmesh stud that had won this coveted race three times as breeders, the last was with Elusive Pimpernel in 1995, led in Hall Of Famer along with trainer Padmanabhan. Interestingly, Hall Of Famer (Win Legend — Elusive Trust) was their first Derby winner in their own racing colours of gold and blue.
Hall Of Fame took home a cool prize of over R2 crore, and a glittering trophy valued at only R1.5 lakh which, for the Brars, will be more priceless than the two-crore stake money — such is the prestige of the Indian Derby, a race which completed 75 years of its existence yesterday at Mahalaxmi.
Actor Sana Khan soaks in the sun at the Derby yesterday
This one's for the boss
Trainer Karthik Ganapathy, the late Dr Ramaswamy's Mumbai based trainer, paid a worthy tribute to his former boss by sending out the winner of the Dr MAM Ramaswamy Multi-millon, named after his former master, the greatest horse owner this country has seen. Dr Ramaswamy retained dozens of trainers and scores of jockeys who looked after his hundreds of horses racing all over the country. Karthik had specially prepared a horse named Perfect Star for the occasion, and jockey PS Chouhan rode it to perfection to claim the trophy. The trophy was given away to the winning connections by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, former chairman of the race club who was also Ramu's close friend.
Plucky and lucky Trevor
Jockey Trevor Patel, who was astride Salazaar, could not do better than finishing sixth in the big race of the day. However, the ace jockey won four of the eight races on yesterday's card to emerge as star performer of the Derby day card. Interestingly, Patel who lost the first race of the day narrowly in a three-way photo finish, scored his first win immediately in the next race, with Myrtlewood who won the R N Kanga Gold Trophy. Trevor's good luck alternated in all the even-numbered races, and after the second race, he ended up winning the fourth, sixth and eighth races.