Who is more qualified to talk about the Indian Derby than top jockey-turned-trainer Pesi Shroff who himself, as a jockey, won it a record eight times? And as a trainer too, won it with Jacqueline two years ago? The ace horseman, in an exclusive chat with MiD DAY, spoke about the race, his runners, their rivals and where he would put his tener if forced to do so.
Trainer Pesi Shroff & owner Vijay Mallya pose with filly Smashing, winner
of last month's Indian Oaks, in Mumbai. Pic/Bipin Kokate
About the race: The Derby is a race that is, basically, a test of stamina. You need speed, but you also need to carry it over a grueling trip. Obviously, it's not easy, more so because any number of things can happen over a mile-and-a-half trip. You have to just hope your horse will get a perfect trip, stay around at the finish and will be able to give out his or her best.
On his runners: I have three runners in the Derby fray this time--Cardinal, Picasso & Smashing; Cardinal & Picasso were both involved in a close finish with Pronto Pronto when they last raced together in the 2000 Guineas--in fact, Cardinal put up a gutsy show in the Ruia after that, so I have reason to hope they will run a good race although the trip is longer.
About Smashing, I will be frank--she pleasantly surprised me by her Oaks victory, and if she can repeat the feat against the colts and the two fillies--Hills And Stars & In The Spotlight, who are confirmed stayers--I will be the happiest man.
On competition: Pronto Pronto, Hills And Stars & In The Spotlight are prime contenders, and therefore I would view them as our main rivals. Tackling the Derby trip shouldn't be an issue with them -- In The Spotlight has won her last two races over that trip. Field Marshal could also run a different race now that he has got the feel of this track. And finally, this Derby is one of the most open contests in years, so once the gates open and they jump out, every runner not trained by me is a rival.
On where his tener would be if forced to bet at gunpoint: Hmmm.... maybe, Pronto Pronto? After all, he is the horse we all have to beat.