Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ruia Cup at Mahalakshmi on Sunday

I like a horse a great deal in Sunday’s first race in Mumbai. It is Captain Abdon. As I look at the Original Vel book, Captain Abdon, in six starts has been worse than fourth only once. In Race 44, with S A Amit up, Captain Abdon was a winner at 20/1. His key victim was Kandinsky who was winner in his next outing. Entrusted with the public purse in an accident-marred Race 104, Captain Abdon, again in the hands apprentice Amit, was a length and a half adrift.

On Sunday, Captain Abdon is set to carry 59 ½ kgs and has drawn seven in the 11-horse field. The distance is 1200 metres. Consistency and readiness are the key elements and the entire cause is strengthened by the presence of A Sandesh in the saddle. The trainer is quite willing to give up the apprentice allowance and that is a measure of the connections’ confidence.

Spanish Saga had to go to 1-26 to win Race 62. In Race 116, Spanish Saga was a length and quarter off in third when running on promotion.

On current form, the first race, in my view, is confined to Captain Abdon and Spanish Saga. The Captain has done much better at Sunday’s level and with the switch to Sandesh, my vote goes to him.

In the second race, my choice is Magnolia. Dismissed at 10/1 in her debut as a four year-old, Magnolia ran fourth and was eight lengths off the winner. In Race 116 in Mumbai, Magnolia, now a five year-old mare, was the 11/10 favorite with N S Parmar. She was fourth again beaten a length and a quarter and she runs again in ten days.

Sunday’s jockey is Jim Crowley, It is Crowley’s first ride in India. As he left London late Friday for Mumbai, jockey Crowley won with his last two mounts at Loingfield Park. The fact that Magnolia was the 11/10 chalk tells a story. With Crowley in the saddle, it is reasonable to think that Magnolia will be able to elevate her game. Post 10 in the 1600-metre race will not be a handicap. It is not a given as Rain Dance, Azadegan, and Top Wizard check in fit for the fray. Normal progression is what Magnolia needs to deliver.

A word or two on Teofilo, Magnolia’s sire.  A son of Galileo, Teofilo was the champion two year-old in Europe in 2006. He ran five times and won all those races.  In the Group I National Stakes, Teofilo beat Holy Roman Emperor at the Curragh. Holy Roman Emperor went to Paris and was victorious in the Lagardere, Europe’s richest race for freshmen. In a rematch in Newmarket’s Dewhurst Stakes, Teofilo gained a narrow verdict over Holy Roman Emperor. Teofilo was made the early favorite for the 2007 Two Thousand Guineas and the Epsom Derby. An injury three weeks before the 2000 Guineas took him out of England’s first Classic and a promising career ended. A stallion, Teofilo is beginning to enjoy some success.

Paddy Power, the Irish betting behemoth, refunded the Guineas and Derby ante post wagers made on Teofilo because of the Irish connections. Jim Bolger, trainer of Teofilo, called the Galileo colt the best he had trained. Bolger rated Teofilo better than St Jovite. A son of Pleasant Colony, the Bolger-trained St Jovite won the Irish Derby in 1992 and also the King George VI Stakes at Ascot that summer. St Jovite, 27 years of age, died on Friday.

Let us now take a look at the sixth race, the 2000-metre R R Ruia Gold Cup. Phoenix Tiger is a tiger on the loose. His appetite is growing. The Phoenix Tower colt has won five races from six starts. The Todywalla pupil is yet to taste defeat with Colm O’Donoghue in the irons. Phoenix Tiger’s win in the 2000 Guineas was impressive. He did what needed to be done to win. The 2000-metre trip should not be a problem. O’Donoghue is a world class rider. He is capable of making smart decisions. Yes, there are worthy adversaries but Phoenix Tiger is in a class of his own. I do not see any chinks in his armour.

Airco is an above average sort but it is clear that he is not in the classic mould. Colombiana is one step below the required level but the Nanda-owned colt tries hard every time. The sparingly raced Gestapo is two for two and the son of Mastercraftsman has the services of Jim Crowley. Gestapo shows considerable promise but he lacks the exposure and experience of Phoenix Tiger. Jefferson has had some battling successes but I believe he needs to elevate his game a great deal to be effective. Magnificence lacks the tools to be a viable threat. Ostwind, the only horse in the Ruia field to have beaten Phoenix Tiger in Bangalore, gets Suraj Narredu. A son of Holy Roman Emperor, Ostwind has not kept pace in terms of development with his more accomplished rivals. Saker comes off a win in Race 16 in Mumbai and that was a 2000-metre race for 40-66 players. There is no question Saker is in deeper waters in the Ruia Cup. Sea Lord has a record that would normally be enviable  but he has to reach new levels to have a shot. Sentosa Cove, a Teofilo gelding, is yet to show the potential that would make him a frontline contender.

The Magician is another I like in Sunday’s tenth race. He was a going-away winner in Race 102. He steps up and has drawn four. It was an optimism-generating victory. I believe The Magician can make another winning bid.

In Hyderabad, Vijay Vaishnavee goes for a hat trick in the opener. Given her cracking form and with P S Chouhan up, the daughter of Yeats, looks home and dry. Yeats won the 4000-metre Gold Cup at Royal Ascot four years in a row from 2006 to 2009.

Vijay Vidhata is in burning form and is the one to stop in the third  race.

The Healer figures to be a deserving favorite  in the fourth. The Healer is by Lord Shanakill. Jim Crowley’s Group I winner in France is Lord Shanakill. Jockey Crowley makes his Indian debut at Mahalakshmi on Sunday. A coincidence worthy of mention.

Good luck

Monday, January 4, 2016

Costa Del Sol and Dancing Prances highly impressive

That was an imperious display by Costa Del Sol in Mumbai on Sunday. It was a five-horse field. The only worthwhile adversary was Bullrun, the Pune Derby winner. Trevor Patel stayed several lengths off the lead, made headway with 800 metres left, pounced on Bullrun who had taken over in the lane and drew away. Costa Del Sol’s record speaks for itself.


At this point, Phoenix Tiger and Costa Del Sol, in my opinion, sit atop the pecking order in the ‘Classic’ division. The Indian Derby is about four weeks away.


Dancing Prances made mincemeat of his rivals in the Bookmakers’ Association Million over 1200 metres. The six year-old gelding by Ace has struck a purple patch. Gold Bag, reunited with Suraj Narredu, had a large following. Jockey Sandesh elected to hold Dancing Prances up. He angled out straightening for home and swept past the front runners in effortless fashion. It was an awesome performance. Gold Bag was outclassed and outpaced.


Intelligence had won in Hyderabad and failed in her next start in Bangalore. She carried top weight in the 1400-metre Squanderer Double Stakes for horses rated 60-86. Trevor Patel got Intelligence alertly away from the gate. Intelligence set a ‘friendly’ pace and had enough left when a bunch of challengers made their bids.


Personify came out of stall 12 in the 1600-metre Bright Hanover Double Stakes. Excolence and Angelic Aria were in a duel in the final 300 metres and the former was emerging the winner. Neeraj Rawal, on Excolence, was hoping the wire would come to his rescue. It was not to be. An energy-drained Excolence was passed by Personify and jockey Sandesh. The Dr MAM Trust-owned Personify unleashed a sparkling turn of foot. I will put Personify in my notebook for an encore.


In the Greater Mumbai Police Cup, Schiehaillon had what appeared to be a winning lead but suffered a life-threatening injury and came to a halt. Advance To Contact landed the generous odds offered on him.


Cavalia and Dasrath Singh grabbed the lead leaving from post 12 in the 12-horse field in the 1600-metre Pradeep Vijayakar Cup. Cavalia was so well rated by Dasrath Singh that the Chevalier filly kept finding more in the stretch. She ran out an easy winner. It has to be borne in mind that Cavalia won in 1-26 company. Given the manner of winning, she may have a chance on promotion.


In Chennai on Sunday, the Hyderabad betting ring was large enough. The Mumbai ring was congested. You cannot move around. You get pushed. My suggestion is that the entire ring be used. It will give fans much needed breathing room.


There is more wagering on Chennai races and more than one bookmaker told me that the Chennai races are attracting more attention. It is a positive development.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year's Day!

The decision to take B Fifty Two down on Thursday in Mumbai was appalling, egregious and in total violation of the principle of ‘fairness.’

Taking a winner down is done only if the evidence is overwhelming. The evidence presented was anything but overwhelming. The opinion of the paid stipes was disregarded. Yes, Sandesh leaned in and Khayyam and Trevor Patel may have been inconvenienced. Trevor is a good rider and I am sure he is extra smart. He did not react. He over reacted. He had an objection in mind. Khayyam was simply not equal to the task.

Whatever happened, as alleged by Trevor, did not stop Khayyam from winning the race. ‘Incidental contact’ is something we see all the time. You cannot take the winnings of a fan who wagered on B Fifty Two. Penalize Sandesh for poor riding, injudicious riding, reckless riding and whatever other phrase you can coin. Do not punish the fans.

B Fifty Two was a deserving winner. It is sacrilege to disqualify a winner in the absence of evidence without a shadow of a doubt.

I was reminded of an old story. A wolf and a lamb were getting their water from a vertical stream. The lamb was at a lower level. The wolf complained that the lamb was muddying up the water. The lamb pointed to the fact that the wolf was at a higher level. The wolf, intent on finding an excuse to make the lamb his next meal, said that the lamb’s father would have muddied the water. A moment later, the wolf pounced on the defenseless lamb.

The investigating authority was intent on giving the race to Khayyam. The deliberation was needlessly long. It was such a blatant abuse of power. I wish I knew what the motivation was.

This is what I want to say about Friday’s Bangalore races. I visited Martin Dwyer in October when my wife and I were in England. Martin showered praise on trainer Padmanabhan.

In the seventh race, Brabus and David Allan made it all. Brabus comes from Padmanabhan’s yard. In the eighth, Sun Moon And Stars, despite being on the shelf for 12 months, was the favorite. Held up and let loose in the final 300 metres, Sun Moon And Stars, a four year-old filly by Burden Of Proof, came with a withering run to pass the front horses. Given the manner of winning, Sun Moon And Stars, the form she is in, can get an encore.

Reflect for a moment on how good a trainer must be to get a horse race-ready after 365 days and Padmanabhan is atop that distinguished list.

David Allan, after riding in India as the winter campaigns got under way, went to England to sort out his work permit. He has come back and struck with two winners. There is a lot more to come.

Dare To Dream defied conventional wisdom by getting the better of Azzurro. The latter  had a tremendous advantage in weights. Imran Chisty and Dare To Dream raced well away from the lead and moved with 400 metres to run. Azzurro fought for a stride or two. That was the extent of the resistance. The lesson is that Dare To Dream has improved beyond recognition. Tested theories go awry and that is the reason we wager on the outcome of a race.

Let us take a look at Saturday’s Bangalore card.  The Padmanabhan-Allan speeding train has steam left. Iceglow can win the first race giving the duo a natural hat trick.

In the third, Iron Will, a Padmanabhan trainee, makes his debut. A three year-old colt by Arazan, Iron Will is likely to be the public choice. Bred for speed, Iron Will can give David Allan his fourth winner in as many steers.

Cadillac Sky is in the third race. Her sire is Summer Bird. Owned by Dr K K Jayaraman and Vilasini Jayaraman, Summer Bird won the Belmont Stakes, the Travers at Saratoga and the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in 2009. He was second to Rachel Alexandra in Monmouth Park’s Haskell Invitational. Summer Bird’s final race was in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Zenyatta won and Summer Bird was fourth. Taken to Japan for the Japan Cup dirt, Summer Bird suffered an injury and did not race again. I am writing this because Summer Bird has a strong Indian connection.

Super Strong is the one to beat in the fourth. A winner last time out, Super Strong, faces a field lacking in depth. His form should carry the day. Suraj Narredu will ride.

Angel Dust is my pick in the sixth race, the Bangalore Oaks. An upset winner in the summer Bangalore Derby, Angel Dust flopped in Hyderabad and then ran second to Starlet in Bangalore in the 1000 Guineas. I do not know how to account for the Hyderabad race. There is no question that she has the best overall credentials. Trevor Patel will be on board.

In the seventh race, I like the chances of Shivalik Star. The Arjun Mangalorkar-trained Shivalik Star comes off a resolute win against most of his adversaries. The weight is eminently manageable. I am expecting a repeat victory for Shivalik Star.