Personally, this Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend is special for me for two reasons — one, it's the first Invitation Cup being hosted on my home turf after I became a trainer; and two, not one but two of my horses figure in the line up.
Trainer Malesh Narredu leading in Be Safe (Suraj Narredu up) after his Indian Derby victory at Mahalaxmi three weeks ago
Thanks to its new avatar which promotes competition between the best horses of different crops, this race now truly lives up to its traditional tagline as the race that decides the "champion of champions".
Nominations are only by invitation, so just qualifying to race is considered a great honour in itself by professionals and horse owners. The who's who of Indian racing fraternity will be here this weekend, and because I was connected with most of them during my jockey days when I used to travel all over the country, it will give me a special joy to perform well in front of them.
As a jockey this race has always proved elusive for me. I tried several times, but the best I could finish was only fourth, astride Indictment in 1997. But same was the case for the mid-day trophy, and I won it this year with Speed King, so I just hope this year continues to prove lucky for me, and as a trainer, I don't have to struggle for long to win this great race.
This is not a mere hope, I have two really good horses in the race — Be Safe & Quasar. And while Be Safe has now clearly emerged as the best horse of this crop after his Indian Derby victory. Quasar, who had gone into the Derby soon after his return from Hyderabad, is also vastly improved because he got crucial four weeks to freshen up. I expect him to run a really big race.
I am aware the experts are divided into two camps, and personally, have never seen the kind of heated debate that's presently going on between the supporters of Be Safe & Amazing Grace. These two horses have a great fan following, and their first encounter, especially in a race like the Indian Turf Invitation Cup, is bound to generate such enthusiasm.
Though Amazing Grace will be running directly after the St Leger at Pune, believe me she is extremely fit. Pesi Shroff is a legendary horseman, and you can be sure he knows what he is doing. Alaindair, the Derby winning champion of last year, also has bounced back to form just at the right time, and his presence in the fray will ensure that only a real champion will be allowed to emerge as a winner of this race. Who will that be? 'May the best horse win', is all I will say, and secretly hope that it will be one of my horses.
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