All set for the Indian Derby

Updated: Jan 30, 2020, 08:35 IST | Prakash Gosavi | Mumbai

The mile-and-a-half contest which thoroughly tests both speed and stamina of champion equines will decide, in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes, the best four-year-old horse in training in India

War Hammer (Suraj Narredu up) after his Bengaluru Derby victory last Sunday. Picture courtesy/ www.RacingPulse.in
War Hammer (Suraj Narredu up) after his Bengaluru Derby victory last Sunday. Picture courtesy/ www.RacingPulse.in

The Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr 1) is scheduled to run at 5.30 pm on Sunday (Feb 2) at the Mahalaxmi racetrack. The mile-and-a-half contest which thoroughly tests both speed and stamina of champion equines will decide, in a matter of two-and-a-half minutes, the best four-year-old horse in training in India.

It is interesting to investigate the reason why as many as 20 top form horses are taking their chance with the Derby. That's because every horse, despite good to great form on their side, has some issue to tackle, indirectly raising hopes of the connections, read owners & trainers, of the competition.

Unbeaten champion

Take the example of War Hammer, the only unbeaten horse in the fray, who has won all his seven races so far. War Hammer is by Air Support out of Soviet Lake, and is trained by the Bangalore-based professional Prasanna Kumar.

Ideally, such a illustrious contender should have scared away most of his rivals. But War Hammer has won all his races at Bangalore, and will be racing outside the garden city for the first time in his career now. Add to that the fact that he won the Bangalore Derby just last Sunday, then traveled to Mumbai by road (in a horse van called "float"), and will attempt to run his second mile-and-a-half race within a span of only eight days. Most Bangalore horses very rarely perform as well at Mumbai in their first encounter, so despite War Hammer's imposing career stats, his rivals have a legitimate hope to dream of the top prize for themselves.

Fantastic filly

The local hopes will be resting mainly on the able shoulders of Juliette, the facile Indian Oaks winner on the Mahalaxmi track two Sundays ago. She is by Mistketier out of Gimmesumsugar and is trained by Krathik G. It is believed by some that it is harder for fillies to run two such long distance races in a span of only two weeks. Looking at the fascinating turn of foot of Juliette I wouldn't generally give much credence to that belief. But the fact that cannot be overlooked is that Juliette is a small-framed filly, weighing barely over the 400-kg mark, and for such a filly to successfully repeat her success in a strenuous race like the Derby may be viewed by some as an uphill task.

Legitimate hopefuls

Under the category of legitimate hopefuls, one has to begin with the S K Sunderji-trained Trouvaille, the winner of the Pune Derby who went down rather tamely to the Vishal Gaikwad-trained Victorious Sermon in the R R Ruia Gold Cup. He may use the Derby as another chance to boost his stock. By extension, his conqueror Victorious Sermon, whose Derby hopes were next to nil after he went bad during the Bangalore summer season, can now be considered a serious contender based on renewal of form.

The last on my list of probables is the Pesi Shroff-trained filly Armaity my Multidimensional out of Hills And Stars. Winner of only one race (on debut) from 5 starts, Armaity ran a very interesting race in the Indian Oaks, She was badly bumped on jump by none other than stable mate Sea The Dream, but after lying last for most part of the trip, she strode in a very interesting manner to fill the frame. If luck of the race is not with Juliette for some reason, I would nominate her as the second most impressive performer in the Oaks, and therefore, a dark horse for the Indian Derby.

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