Alma Mater, carrying the silks of Shyam Ruia, who owns her in partnership with his son Ameya & friends PK Singhania & SS Jhaveri, unleashed an incredible burst of energy to move from the 15th position at the final turn and sweep past the entire field to claim the grade 1, Radio Mirchi Indian 1000 Guineas, the first Classic of the current Mahalaxmi season.
Jockeys battle it out during the India 1000 Guineas (Grade 1) race
yesterday. Pic/Santosh Nagwekar
The first question that was put to a breathless B Prakash after he returned to the thunderous applause and cheers of the crowd was if he thought Alma Mater could hold her own over the Oaks & Derby trip of mile-and-a-half, and the ace rider was quick to endorse, "Yes, of course, I am sure she will get the longer trips."
Interestingly, the ace rider, who is actually retained by Vijay Shirke whose main hope in this race was Botswana, had excused himself from riding Botswana, because he was not too enamoured by her chances in the race, and in a rare display of deference to the jockeys' wishes, Botswana's owners Shirke & Dhunjibhoy had allowed Prakash to ride their friend Shyam Ruia's filly Alma Mater.
Ironically, Botswana for whom they imported jockey Stephen Pasquier put up a stiff resistance to lose by only three parts of a length, a neck further behind was Black Magic Woman on whom another imported rider, David Allan, was asked to do the duty. "No hard feelings," both Shirke & Dhunjibhoy said when speaking to MiD DAY after the race, "Shyam is a dear friend, and we are happy our jockey won the race for him."
Pesi Shroff, whose Smashing, favourite for the race, flopped in front of owner Vijay Mallya who had made an unscheduled visit to see his filly take part in the big race, had no reason to complain as both the winner Alma Mater & runner-up Botswana were also trained by him. "Alma Mater is a good filly," he told MiD DAY after the race, "she has won all her races, and she will now go into the Indian Oaks in January."
For owner Shyam Ruia, it was the first 1000 Guineas success for his Equus stud farm. "I feel absolutely great," he said after the race.