Mumbai: D-day has finally arrived. All roads will lead to the Mahalaxmi racecourse, as a record crowd is expected to witness the coronation of the champion four-year-old horse of the country, winner of the McDowell Signature Indian Derby (Gr 1).
Bay colt 4y; By Dubawi out of Zacheta's Girl Bred at Hazara Stud Owner: Dr MAM Ramaswamy Trainer: S Ganapathy Jockey: Chris D Hayes Odds: 14-to-10
All eyes will be on Murioi, the horse who has yet to lose a race on the Mahalaxmi racetrack. It's the story of a horse who, after winning the champion juvenile crown exactly one year ago, went horribly wrong in the summer of 2013. It's the story of painstaking efforts of trainer Ganapathy who patiently worked on him to get him going.
And it's also the story of a master mind Dr MAM Ramaswamy who has, over the years, scripted many a winning plot for his record number of Derby winners. Will this story culminate in a fairy tale ending today evening?
Or will Jeremiah, the horse who has oodles of talent and has class written all about him, refuse to quit the winning ways he has developed almost as habit, executing each of his victories with clinical precision, demolishing opposition of all hues with workman-like attitutude?
Jeremiah Grey gelding 4y; By Jeremy out of Acciacatura Bred at Sohna stud Owners: Haresh N Mehta, Manav H Mehta, Rakesh R Jhunjhunwala & Jaydev Mody Trainer: Pesi Shroff Jockey: S Zervan Odds: 3-to-1
“Murioi is in great heart,” trainer S Ganapathy told SUNDAY MiD DAY on the eve of the big race, “and so is my other horse Southern Emperor who has been shaping up very well of late. I will be very happy to see them run one-two in the Derby.”
The Ramaswamy camp does not want to leave anything to chance. They have imported jockey Chris Hayes to ride Murioi, though Indian B Sreekanth who has partnered him in all his 10 starts so far, is presently enjoying an incredible strike rate of 46% at the Mahalaxmi track.
“The boy is showing a lot of promise,” Ganapathy agreed, “but we wish to groom him steadily. Indian Derby is a high voltage affair, and we don't want to expose him so soon to that electric atmosphere which is the ultimate test of temperament for a jockey especially astride a horse on whom all eyes will be focused he is still young, and in time he will have his chance.”
Out to challenge the top pair of Murioi and Jeremiah are Alaindair (conqueror of Murioi during the summer classics), Isn't It Special (Oaks winner), Circle Of Life (Oaks runner up) and Agostini (Bangalore Derby winner who paid a hefty final entry fee).
With Derby favourites biting the dust in eight of the last ten years, the connections of lesser fancied contestants are keeping their fingers crossed. Trainer Malesh Narredu, who has pitched in Falcon (listed at 30-1 in the odds) in the fray, said, “it's the Derby, everyone is entitled to take their chances and I am taking mine with Falcon.”
Narredu's quote aptly sums up why there are 15 horses in the Derby line up despite the imposing form and reputation of Murioi and Jeremiah. My choice is Murioi, whose current form I find simply sensational. I expect him to score a decisive victory over this field, and recommend him as a good bet of the Derby card.
First race at 1.15 pm.
Royal Challenge 'Game For Life' Cup - Div II (Class V; 1200m) Ashwa Yodhaa 1, Double Diamond 2, Traffic Jam 3.
Four Seasons Cup (For 3y, maidens; 1600m) Strategic Move 1, High Expectation 2, Incandescent 3.
White Mischief Cup (Class II; 1000m) Way Out 1, Victorious March 2, Brindaban 3.
R N Kanga Gold Trophy (For 4y&o; 1600m) Hachiko 1, Storm Tracker 2, Clinton 3.
Antiquity Blue 'Fusion Of The Finest' Cup (Class III; 1600m) Sheer Class 1, Elite Model 2, Haunting Moments 3.
McDowell's No.1 Platinum Trophy (Class IV; 2400m) Aviator 1, Reynolds 2, Ace Fantasy 3.
B K Rattonsey Memorial Maiden Multi-Million (For 3y, maidens; 1200m) Quasar 1, Ladybird 2, Shivaliks Glory 3.
Royal Challenge 'Game For Life' Cup - Div I (Class V; 1200m) Backstreet Bay 1, Dark William 2, Bella Figura 3.
Best bet: None
Good bet: Murioi (8-7)
Chance bet: Quasar (7-6)
Upset: Catharsis (3-8) & Neptune's Ocean (9-3)
Super jackpot poo: 4,5,6,7,8,9
Jackpot pool: I - 3,4,5,6,7; II - 5,6,7,8,9
Treble pool: I - 2,3,4; II - 6,7,8; III - 7,8,9
Tanala pool: All races
2014 Derby in a nutshell
McDowell Signature Indian Derby Gr 1 (For 4y; 2400m)
Time: 5.30 pm
The line up:
1. Ace Bucephalus 57 Suraj Narredu (12);
2. Agostini 57 Beuzelin Louis (11);
3. Alaindair 57 YS Srinath (4);
4. Archie 57 Imran Chisty (15);
5. Falcon 57 R Woodworth (6);
6. Jeremiah 57 S Zervan (2);
7. Murioi 57 CD Hayes (14);
8. Southern Emperor 57 B Sreekanth (5);
9. Wentworth 57 NS Parmar (3);
10. Amazing Grace 55 P Trevor (7);
11. Circle Of Life 55 R Hughes (13);
12. Highraz 55 S John (8);
13. Isn't She Special 55 David Allan (10);
14. Keukenhof 55 CS Jodha (9);
15. Starry Eyes 55 A Sandesh (1).
Selections: Murioi 1, Jeremiah 2, Agostini 3, Alaindair 4.