Dr MAM Ramaswamy-owned four-year-old favourite wins prestigious Derby setting a new course record en route
Be Safe, owned by Dr MAM Ramaswamy and trained by Malesh Narredu, kept his date with destiny to emerge as the champion four-year-old horse by winning the McDowell Signaure Indian Derby (Gr 1) at the Mahalaxmi racetrack yesterday.
Jockey Suraj Nareddu (left), who rode Be Safe to the Indian Derby title, receives his trophy from UB Group chaiman Vijay Mallya while actor and chief guest Kangana Ranaut (right) looks on
Be Safe trashed the earlier course record of 2:28.05 set by Alaindair last year when he stopped the clock at 2:27.71 to the delight of the mammoth crowd that accorded a thundering applause and standing ovation to jockey Suraj Narredu, who partnered Be Safe.
Thirteen runners in fray
When the gates opened for the mile-and-a-half contest that tests both speed and stamina, and 13 runners jumped out, Suraj settled Be Safe in fifth position as Shivalik Showers (N Rawal up) set a decent pace to The General (Yash Narredu up) and Illidan (Sandesh up) even as Top Commander brushed up to stalk the pace, and Tiger Tops (Colm O'Donoghue up) and Quasar (Srinath up) preferred to stay back.
The pace heated up in the final 800 meters and Suraj Narredu allowed Be Safe to lengthen his stride a bit, but Colm O'Donoghue quickly moved up and brought Tiger Tops alongside Be Safe as the heads turned for home.
However, after crossing the 300-meter post, Suraj put Be Safe in top gear, and he sailed away to a four-and-a-half length victory over Tiger Top who finished a neck ahead of Quasar who in turn spared the same to Aquamarine.
"Horses like Be Safe come once in a lifetime," Suraj Narredu told mid-day after the race, "he is the best horse I have ridden, and this I am not saying now. When he came to Bangalore last year in the summer, and I cantered him for the first time, I got off him and told my dad he is a special horse, unlike any I had ever ridden."
"Today is a red-letter day for me," a beaming Malesh Narredu, who led in his first Derby winner as trainer yesterday, told mid-day after the trophy presentation ceremony, refusing to take credit for the splendid show of Be Safe, "the whole credit goes to the horse, he is the real champion."
Be Safe crosses the finishline to win the Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi Race Course yesterday. Pics/Satyajit Desai
"When I saw that Tiger Tops was going all out and Be Safe was only cruising alongside," trainer Malesh Narredu told mid-day, "I kept my binoculars down, as I knew nothing could go wrong now." Later, Colm O'Donoghue who rode Tiger Tops, called Be Safe's trainer Malesh Narredu to inquire what were the future plans for Be Safe.
"I told him he would race in the Invitation Cup next month," Narredu said, "but I was thrilled when he told me we should instead try and take him to Dubai.
Foreign shores beckon
Coming that from an experienced rider like Colm, I think it's a great tribute for Be Safe." Whether Be Safe should stay back in India or go abroad will be decided by owner Dr MAM Ramaswamy who has over the years shown exemplary judgement in such matters.
Until then, all one can say is that if you missed watching Be Safe winning the Derby, you will get another chance exactly a month later when he will take on a quality field of four years and older horses in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup.