One of the 23 horses in the fray will have to be balloted out because the maximum number permissible on the Mahalaxmi track in any single race is only 22
The 75th edition of the Indian Derby, sponsored by Kingfisher Ultra and partnered by Signature, will be run at the Mahalaxmi racecourse this Sunday (February 7).
Costa Del Sol and Phoenix Tiger
The official website of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) lists 23 horses left in the fray at the handicaps stage; however, if all of them choose to try their luck on the D-day, then one of them will have to be balloted out by the use of what should then be termed as 'unlucky draw' rather than a 'lucky draw', because the maximum number permissible on the Mahalaxmi track in any single race is only 22.
Of course, one hopes such singular ill luck doesn't befall any Derby aspirant; and hopefully, some of the current 23 in the fray will opt out before the final acceptance stage on Thursday.
But the reason this Derby field may still be close to full house is because, thanks to the issues related to either speed and stamina, or both, most experts are betting that this will turn out to be a very open affair. These experts, always remaining behind the scenes, are the ones who help bookmakers open the odds for the ante-post market, and are extremely sharp in accurately predicting the chances of contenders in most races.
When mid-day tried to get the feel of expert sentiment about the top market fancies for the Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr 1) 2016, almost all of them unanimously touted Myrtlewood as the horse to beat, but in the same breath, they also said she was not invincible.
"Her victory in the Derby cannot be taken for granted because she will be facing really 'tough boys' for the first time," said one. "By tough boys," he explained, "I mean horses like Phoenix Tiger, Costa Del Sol, Colombiana and Desert God." Pradeep Reshammia, the man who opens odds officially for the RWITC website, however, begged to differ with the expert assessment.
You can be sure a seasoned bookmaker like Pradeep knows what he is talking about when he discounts Colombiana, who beat Phoenix Tiger in the Ruia Cup, completely and thinks latter deserves to be a joint favourite with Myrtlewood for the Derby.
"I don't think that was a true run of Phoenix Tiger, just ignore it. The horse deserved to win, maybe he lost due to an ill-judged ride," he added, before daring this writer, "Colombiana beat him at the odds of 25 to 1, right? Come on, I will give you 20 to 1 on him for the Derby, want to bet?"
The RWITC odds-maker then repeated the same point in explicit words, "I have been hearing a lot of talk about Costa Del Sol being the Derby horse, but looking at the company he has beaten, I am not very much impressed. If you ask me to express my Derby opinion through the odds, I will open both Myrtlewood and Phoenix Tiger joint favourites at 2 to 1, and offer 7 to 2 on Costa Del Sol."
When asked for his opinion about Myrtlewood, Pradeep Reshammia, the man who opens odds officially for the RWITC website, said, "Myrtlewood races like a bullet train, especially when she accelerates. She has also won over this trip. She deserves to be the crowd's favourite, but I have seen this (betting) market for many years, and believe there will be no clear favourite for this Derby when they all line up in the starting gates."
Incidentally, he may be right about Myrtlewood and her fan base. This writer also feels Myrtlewood will have the most supporters among the 25,000-plus crowd that will throng the Mahalaxmi racecourse on the D-day. Myrtlewood is trained by Pesi Shroff and will most probably be ridden by Pradeep Chouhan who steered her to all her three victories on this track this season which also included two group 1 races, namely, Indian 1000 Guineas and Oaks.
She started off with a lot of promise last Mumbai season, but her stock tumbled badly when she lost all her three races subsequently during Bangalore summer campaign. Mehernosh Deboo, Myrtlewood's owner, had revealed to mid-day the reason for her losses at Bangalore which not many knew.
"She had suffered a fracture, but it went undetected at Bangalore," he had said, "we discovered it only when she came to Pune and gave her time to heal. Now that she is fit, I expect she will perform to her potential in all future races." Myrtlewood, made a mockery of her rivals by winning the Indian Oaks over 2400 meters, the same distance over which Indian Derby will be run.