Posted On Sunday, February 03, 2013 at 08:39:05 AM
Mumbai: It’s taken nearly three decades for the McDowell Indian Derby to gain acceptance both as a spectacular horse-racing and lifestyle event in the city’s social calendar, one that has transformed the turf club lawns into a playground for the bold and the beautiful.
The irresistible experience of being at the races attracts a cross-section of the society to witness a thrilling contest between equine athletes, traditionally hosted on the first Sunday of February at the Mahalaxmi Race Course every year.
|Malesh Narredu leading in Shivalik Hero (B Sreekanth up), his first winner for MAM Ramaswamy at Pune
What the crowd typically loves to do, during its stay of a couple of hours, is to root for their horse as the runners make their final dash towards the winning line. Though for that to happen, the gathering requires a hero or heroine; a potential winner or, as they call in racing parlance, the favourite.
Being a crowd favourite however doesn’t offer any guarantee that the horse will taste success in the most prestigious race of the Indian racing calendar. In absence of any candidate with a clear cut edge, the crescendo at the finish is likely to be more vociferous.
For the last four years it’s been the magnificent four from the fairer sex Set Alight, Jacqueline, Moonlight Romance and In The Spotlight, which had set the public’s imagination on fire.
But this year, the Derby is going to be different! Different not as in the ketchup ad but because there is no clear cut favourite to win the event this year.
The last time when the racing public scratched their heads was in the 2004 when Pesi Shroff rode the 10 to 1shot Psychic Flame in a seventeenhorse field to victory which incidentally was his last Derby success as a rider.
If history repeats itself today, then Malesh Narredu could scale the highest peak of his brief career as a horsetrainer thus far. Malesh has a strong contender in MAM Ramaswamy owned Shivalik Hero, who has been following the footsteps of his owner-mate Southern Regent, the 2005 Derby winner, quite literally.
S Ganapathy’s protégé Southern Regent had finished runner-up in all the three events the Pune Derby, Indian 2000 Guineas and RR Ruia Gold Trophy, preceding his Derby triumph over hot-favourite Venus Arising.
Despite the disappointment, Malesh has not given up on Shivalik Hero and is confident that his ward won’t let him down. Malesh is not alone in seeking his first Derby win this year, Bangalorebased model-turned-trainer Irfan Ghatala is making his second trip to Mahalaxmi.
Ghatala has brought along a horse named Wind Stream, who according to many experts should be the worthy favourite. There are others too like Vittal Deshmukh who wants to cap his classic winning streak with Machiavellianism, the 2000 Guineas winner, Adhirajsingh Jodha who has pinned his hopes on Caesars Star.
Such is the craze for winning the Derby that Deepak Khaitan and Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan have coughed up nine lakh rupees each to gain a final entry into the big event.
Vijay Singh will saddle the Kolkata Derby winner Snowscape for Khaitan while CD Katrak has Winds of Fortune for Wadhawan. When a race is as competitive or confusing like this year’s Derby, it’s always said that may the best horse win. So be it. May the best horse win.