There is only one question on everyone's lips: Will Be Safe (Holy Roman Emperor - Oriental Lady), the hottest favourite for the Signature Indian Derby to be run on Sunday at the Mahalaxmi racecourse, deliver the goods?
Be Safe (Suraj Narredu up)
And the question is not out of place. The record of Derby favourites in recent years has been shockingly bad—only one favourite in the last 12 years has obliged. Barring Jacqueline (2010), trained by Pesi Shroff, no other clear Derby favourite has lived up to the public's expectations.
Be Safe races in the same silks that Southern Empire, the 2007 Derby favourite, donned when tamely losing to stable mate and shock winner Diabolical.
Interestingly, Dr Ramaswamy, Be Safe's owner, has also ordered Bangalore Derby winner Bold Majesty to join the Signature Indian Derby fray by paying a hefty late entry fee. Does the grand old man of Indian racing have any doubt about Be Safe's ability to tackle the Derby trip and therefore wants to play it safe?
I don't think so. The Signature Indian Derby, which offers nearly Rs two crore as prize money to the winner, is the richest sporting event in the land, and even a fifth place finisher will take home a cool million rupees, so adding another horse to you contingent, even by paying a late fee, makes financial sense.
Of course, Be Safe has yet to go over the Derby trip of mile-and-a-half, so that fact coupled with the recent image of the Derby as the graveyard of favourites, has emboldened many connections to take a shot at the blue riband this year. Notable among them are Tiger Tops (winner of Oaks at Kolkata & Mumbai) and Quasar (triple Derby winner, having won Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad Derbies).
But the fact that Be Safe has won all his races with ease, barring only the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million (Gr 1) when he was ridden in a very strange way for which jockey B Sreekanth attracted suspension, speaks volumes about his fitness and ability, and does immense credit to his trainer Malesh Narredu's grooming skills to get this talented horse to peak fitness whenever required.
That the former ace jockey-turned-trainer knows his job well became clear when, after winning the Bangalore Summer Derby in July last year, in an unusual move, he shelved the champion horse for more than four months to bring him out only for the preparatory race directly in November when the Mumbai racing season began.
Like trainer Malesh Narredu, his nephew Suraj Narredu, who will partner Be Safe in the Derby, also has a great tuning with the horse.
Therefore, I feel, barring accident, nothing will stop Be Safe from claiming the richest and the most prestigious title of Indian racing this Sunday.
While I must concede that my knowledge of pedigree does not qualify me to sit in judgement over whether Be Safe will be able to successfully tackle the Derby trip, the k-factor value of 0.2558 (198 strides over the 2,000 Guineas trip of mile, clocking 1m 35.78 seconds) based on my Dynamic Handicapping considerations clearly hints that Be Safe can stay till the cows come home, and should not exhibit any stamina limitations at all.
I think it can be safely said that Be Safe towers over this set of rivals, and should be able to easily win the Signature Indian Derby this Sunday without giving any anxious moments to his followers.