The thundering hooves are within earshot as the first Sunday of February nears. The Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr 1), which decides the best four-year-old horse in the country, is this Sunday. In its 75th year, the Derby will offer the owner a takeaway upwards of R2 crore as prize, out of a total stakes of Rs 3 crore.

Lots of firsts
For the first time in the history of the Indian Derby, the weekend races will begin under the floodlights on Saturday. Old-timers will remember Saturday night was formerly reserved for Vijay Mallya's pre-Derby party. With Mallya out of the country, it is now up to the turf club to glam up the race and this is one way of doing it. In addition, guests will have to cough up a steep R1,000 as entrance charge. The club justifies this saying punters will be allowed to take in their cellphones.

As quick as instant noodles
Just 150 seconds, that's how much time it takes for the horses to finish the Derby. All that toil put in for over three years, only to have it end in 2.5 minutes. That's how it has been since a filly called Beautiful Princess won in 1943, when the race was first run. Maggi noodles? Two minutes. Indian Derby? Bas 2.5 minutes.

Playing favourites
The ante-post favourite for the Derby will be Serjeant At Arms, who currently shares the highest rating for a four-year-old, 100, along with Hall Of Famer, who will also be in the line-up. On their heels is the Indian Oaks winner Temerity (97), followed by Mrs Patmore (89), the winner of the Indian 1000 Guineas. The lowest rated horse in the fray is Covert Action, at only 28. But before you scoff at his chances, consider this — just last week, the Bangalore Derby was won by a horse, (Tororosso) who, just one race earlier, was rated exactly 28!