'Breakfast of Champions' sees top racing pros predict sizzling Derby Sunday

Yesterday’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ saw top racing pros predict sizzling Derby Sunday, and talk about a colt, a filly and some things silly

The Indian Derby (to be run on Sunday, February 7) is upon us, and the Mahalaxmi racecourse is preening already, as it prepares to host the most prestigious event on Indian turf.

The horses demonstrate raw power at the start. Pics/Shadab Khan
The horses demonstrate raw power at the start. Pics/Shadab Khan

Racing professionals and Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) bigwigs held a meeting for the media, called the, ‘Breakfast of Champions’ at the Mahalaxmi racecourse lawn outside the members’ enclosure yesterday morning.

To water, horses are natural swimmers
To water, horses are natural swimmers

As the bracing morning air whetted appetites, the smell of bacon ‘n’ eggs mixed with dosa and vadas as breakfast was laid out beside the picture postcard green track. Horse owners and trainers were seen milling around, even as the sun started rising higher in the sky and dawn turned to day.

A horse is shod by a farrier
A horse is shod by a farrier

Jockey Colm O’ Donoghue, riding Phoenix Tiger in the Derby, said about his mount, “He has won every race so far, he is going to stay the distance.”

Pesi Shroff (c) at the breakfast table
Pesi Shroff (c) at the breakfast table

While Colm was speaking, RWITC chairman the unassuming Zavaray Poonawalla queued up for breakfast just like lesser mortals did. Even before Mr. Z, we shall him that for convenience, could spear his scrambled eggs, though, he was whisked away by the media for his Derby predictions. Mr. Z said, “The race is between Costa Del Sol and Myrtlewood, but I think Myrtlewood may take it, because she has a tremendous turn of foot. It is the ability to increase her speed towards the finish, it is the same virtue the horse Mystical had.”

One spotted former jockey and now trainer, Malesh Narredu digging into a masala dosa, (ah the bliss of not having to keep a hawk eye on one’s waistline once jockey days are over). He has three horses in the Derby, and says, “Colombiana has won the Ruia Gold Cup, which is the preparation race for the Derby, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.” Malesh said that there may be “traffic problems” given that this is a 20-horse field.

RWITC’s Vivek Jain is pleased about the 20-plenty. He said, “It is exciting given that we have a 20-horse field after many years. But, horses will need the luck of the race, there may be plenty of jostling, jockeys have to be wary of getting stuck to the rails.” Jain says he would go with the filly Myrtlewood, “who has a lightning turn of foot. There is no one outstanding horse though, making the contest more enthralling.”

Trainer Bipin Salvi says it is the filly, Star Formation for him. “She has done nothing wrong, so far,” he stated emphatically."

Phoenix Tiger trainer Dallas Todywalla, who was bustling between breakfast meet and the track work says that all those who say his horse is not a stayer, “well, I hope to prove them wrong.” Dallas cited, “traffic problems, with 20 horses in the fray.” Neigh, out of my way.

Post predictions, the press was shown a small demonstration of how the starting gates slam open and horses bolt out at the start. The demo took place at the 10-furlong marker.

Who knows more about starting gates than Jahangir S, who has been a starter for more 24 years, “but a Derby still gives me the jitters, it is such a big ticket occasion, all the noise. I cannot hear myself at the gates,” said Jahangir.

Trainer Pesi Shroff had last words when asked to choose between his Derby horses, Costa Del Sol or Myrtlewood, “how can I choose between my children?” With the trainer non-committal, we ask: Costa de Sol and Myrtlewood, or will another come good?

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