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Alaindair shocks Murioi, Jeremiah at the Indian Derby

Four-year-old, with 13 to 1 odds, stuns favourites Murioi and Jeremiah to emerge triumphant

Mumbai: Written off summarily by the pundits after his loss at the hands of Murioi in the Indian 2000 Guineas, Alaindair, trained by Altamash Ahmed, used the 25,000-strong Derby crowd as witness to inflict a crushing defeat on Murioi and 13 other thoroughbreds in the Grade 1, McDowell Signature Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi racecourse yesterday.

Jockey YS Srinath rides Alaindair (left) to win the McDowell Signature Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Pic/Shadab Khan
Jockey YS Srinath rides Alaindair (left) to win the McDowell Signature Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Pic/Shadab Khan 

Barring Ameeta Mehra who bred the Multidimensional-God's Grace four-year-old at her Usha stud farm and also has a share in him, Alaindair's Derby victory gave all others — trainer Altamash Ahmed, jockey YS Srinath and owners Dr Nevill Devlaliwalla and Gaurav Sethi — their first taste of heady Derby success.

During the final moments before the start of the race, favourite Murioi was backed to the exclusion of all his rivals, getting hammered down to 5 to 4, while palpable lack of support for Jeremiah drove his odds up to 9 to 2, with all others being pushed beyond the double-digit mark. Alaindair was quoted at 15 to 1, and with some support, finally closed at 13 to 1.

Jockey Srinath settled Alaindair on the inner rails in mid-bunch even as Isn't She Special (David Allan up) employed the same tactics that earned her the Oaks victory and hit the front, closely chased by Archie, Jeremiah, Southern Emperor, Starry Eyes, Agostini and Murioi, followed by Alaindair and the rest.

Jeremiah makes his move
The same order prevailed, more or less, until they approached the final turn when Jeremiah (S Zervan up) made his move to pounce on Isn't She Special and Starry Eyes (Sandesh up) and moved up fast on the inner rails to come into contention.

However, before Jeremiah could catch Isn't She Special, CD Hayes put favourite Murioi into top gear and the latter devoured ground to assume command and for a moment it looked like the 72nd edition of the Derby would break its image as the graveyard of favourites.

But in a brilliant move that dripped of supreme confidence, jockey YS Srinath pulled out Alaindair to get almost onto the center of the track, and unleashed a powerful stretch run that was simply scintillating.

Alaindair responded magnificently to Srinath's call and pounced on Murioi with such savage force that it ceased to be a contest in the last 100 meters. A dispirited Murioi finally slipped to fourth spot as Starry Eyes and Circle Of Life managed to edge him out at the wire.

Srinath 'over the moon'
"I am over the moon. Even after crossing the winning post, I couldn't believe I have won the Derby! It all looked so unreal," jockey Srinath, who won his first Indian Derby in what most perceive as the last leg of his career, said after the race.

Srinath added, "When I saw Murioi making his move so early, I knew this was the day I would get him, and switched to the outside to make my bid."

Altamash thrilled
Trainer Altamash Ahmed, who had nursed Derby hopes last year for An Acquired Taste, which were later belied, considered himself lucky that he didn't have to wait long. "Winning the Indian Derby is a dream for every professional, this is a great moment, I have no words to express my gratitude — God has been very kind."

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