On one hand, trainer Pesi Shroff must be secretly happy that two of the top contenders for the Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr 1) to be run today at Mahalaxmi Racecourse are trained by him. But on the other hand, the champion trainer is clearly in a bit of a dilemma when everyone around wants to know which of the two, between Costa Del Sol & Myrtlewood, he thinks is better than the other.
Pesi won't choose
When mid-day put this question to Shroff, he asked a counter question, "When a father has two talented children, how can he choose one over the other?" The ace trainer then went on to add that it wasn't just between his two top runners, they—and all others—have Phoenix Tiger to beat.
"And mind you, this Derby is an open race," he added, "when you have a crowded field of 20 runners with top contenders of nearly equal ability, a lot many things can happen during the race. Many times, luck of the race proves the most decisive factor."
Shroff, also faces another problem — all his owners come from the big league, but represent different interests in the Derby field. Costa Del Sol is owned by 'big bull' of the stock market Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla along with Haresh Mehta and Pallon Mistry, the last-named being son of Shapoor Mistry of Manjri stud farm who owns the Dallas Todywalla-trained Phoenix Tiger along with friends.
Myrtlewood, also trained by Shroff, is owned by Mr & Mrs Mehernosh Deboo, while Gestapo, a Shroff ward who started off with great promise but badly faltered in the Ruia Cup, is owned by Vijay Shrike and his son, along with partner KN Dhunjibhoy. With all three horses from his yard belonging to different interests, Shroff's reluctance to take sides is understandable.
The Indian Derby, after all, is the biggest race of the Indian racing calendar, and owners of Derby contenders obviously invest both their money and ego in their equine property.
The experts, however, are almost unanimous that despite the crowded field, it will basically be a three-horse affair involving Costa Del Sol, Myrtlewood and Phoenix Tiger, with Desert God, trained by S Padmanabhan, capable of upsetting the applecart.
(For Indian horses, four-year-old only; distance: 2,400 meters; timing: 5.15 pm)
1. Airco 57.00 Arshad Alam (16);
2. B Fifty Two 57.00 Imran Chisty (1);
3. Bold Appeal 57.00 Bhawani Singh (19);
4. Bold Command 57.00 A Sandesh (3);
5. Brilliant Cut 57.00 S John (4);
6. Bullrun 57.00 Neeraj Rawal (9);
7. Colombiana 57.00 Pat Smullen (6);
8. Costa Del Sol 57.00 James Doyle (2);
9. Desert God 57.00 David Allan (11);
10. Gestapo 57.00 Jim Crowley (5);
11. Jefferson 57.00 Dashrath Singh (7);
12. Magnificence 57.00 A Imran Khan (20);
13. Ostwind 57.00 Yash Narredu (14);
14. Phoenix Tiger 57.00 Colm O’Donoghue (10);
15. Sea Lord 57.00 P Trevor (13);
16. Setaflame 57.00 Suraj Narredu (15);
17. Shadowfax 57.00 Kevin Manning (17);
18. Myrtlewood 55.50 P S Chouhan (12);
19. Shivalik Heroine 55.50 C S Jodha (18);
20. Star Formation 55.50 T S Jodha (8).
Selections: Costa Del Sol 1, Myrtlewood 2, Phoenix Tiger 3, Desert God 4.