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UNRAVELLING THE CLASSIC CONUNDRUM - A Preview of the Pune Derby (Grade 1) 2018 - By Cyrus Naterwalla

Posted on - 13 Oct 2018

UNRAVELLING THE CLASSIC CONUNDRUM – A Preview of the Pune Derby (Grade 1) 2018
-By Cyrus Naterwalla
Long known as the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby and considered the highlight of the Pune Racing Season – The Pune Derby this year sadly does not have a sponsor which is a huge disappointment for such a prestigious race. Last year – the ‘Wonder Filly’ Lady In Lace thrashed the local contingent with a resounding 9 length victory – the last time that she was won over a distance of 2000M having the future winner of the Indian Derby (Rochester) and the Indian St. Leger (Caprisca) back in 2nd and 3rd that day. Out station horses have had limited success in this race with all the other 3 horses besides Lady In Lace belonging to Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy – Forest Fantasy, Scenic Royale and Secret Memory. However, with the Classic Crop in Western India looking particularly weak this season – chances of an out station challenger succeeding this year as well look brighter than average.
A brief assessment of the main runners in the smallest field since Phenomenale way back in 2008 – 7 runners is given below
DESPERADO    (Win Legend x Integra)
TRAINER :-Neil Darashah                            
WEIGHT:-   57 kgs.
JOCKEY :-  Arshad Alam                                         
DRAW :-   3
STARTS :-4                                                               
WINS :- 3
The highest rated horse in the field and the one who in most likelihood will be sent off the favourite this Dashmesh Stud bred has been a late maturing type but has quickly developed into a front line contender having impressively won his last 3 starts on the trot and 3 of 4 overall. Making his debut in a small 6 furlong maiden back in February in Bangalore, Desperado was relatively unfancied and ridden by V.R. Jagadeesh ended up a decent 3rd behind Diamond Rays over 6 furlongs. He did not race again during the Winter campaign but announced himself as one to take notice off when reappearing in July and beating Poonawalla Million winner Corfe Castle quite convincingly although in receipt of 5 kilos over 1400M. He was even more impressive on his next outing the Bangalore Summer Million over a mile where he thrashed a decent yardstick in the form of the filly Shesmyscript, who went on to finish a close 3rd in the Mysore 1000 Guineas. Travelling to Pune next to get acclimatized to the track, he went on to route Class III opposition again over a mile, scoring an impressive 8 length victory over Barbaresco who was in receipt of 8 kilos as well. The most impressive feature of his win that day was that he clocked a timing of 1.37.63 seconds which was 0.020 seconds faster than Cambridge’s timing in Class I on the same day. He has been working superbly since then run and clearly has the credentials to be a worthy favourite.
On the stamina side, he is not certain to stay but Win Legend clearly provides a fair amount of stamina influence. While Desperado is probably the best performed yet of the dam Integra’s progeny, she has produced some useful types in the past like Millenium Glory and Integrated but most of the progeny appear to be effective over distances upto a mile. The best of them probably would be Let There Be Light who finished runner up in the Bangalore 1000 Guineas and was 3rd in the Golconda Oaks but there is practically no evidence of winning form over 2000M so that is one doubt which Desperado will have to clear. He is a strong long striding sort and clearly appears to be the one to beat
EXCELLENT    (Excellent Art  x Skyelady)
TRAINER :-Dallas Todywalla                                   
WEIGHT:-   57 kgs.
JOCKEY :-Neeraj Rawal                                           
DRAW :- 2
STARTS :-4                                                              
WINS :- 3
Flies the flag for the local contingent and has quickly developed into a classy miler, having a similar profile to Desperado and having also won his last 3 starts in impressive fashion. Making his debut over a sharp 1000M back in Mumbai in April, he caught the eye with a strong finishing effort but just failed to reel in the speedster Columbianaprincess by a dwindling half a length and he would have won in another couple of strides. Upped to 7 furlongs just 3 weeks later he scored an impressive maiden win over 1400M, beating Awesome One convincingly. He made his first appearance in Pune straight in the F.D. Wadia Trophy and with limited trackwork and in spite of looking a shade underdone, he was an easy 3 length winner over Bernice with Barbaresco 4 ½ lengths behind in 4th and Truly Epic finishing 5th another ¾ length away. His timing that day of 1.25.51 was much faster than any of the other 7 furlong contests but those were mainly Class III and IV contests. He went on to claim the S.A. Poonawalla Multi Million next time out showing good resilience to hold off Adjudicate and Pioneer and prevail by 1 ¼ lengths. New Moon as stable mate of Desperado finished 4th that day beaten about 2 lengths so the Trainer should be able to get a good line with Excellent and know how much better his ward is. The timing of 1.37.60 that day was marginally better than that clocked by Till End of Time in Class IV so although on different days, both he and Desperado have clocked a near similar time over a mile. Truly Epic was again about 5 lengths adrift that day in 5th. Only 2 other horses have previously won the F.D. Wadia and the S.A.Poonawalla in the same season – Sea Ruler in 2009 and Neona in 2012 and neither one went on to run the Derby so Excellent will be attempting to make history here. However, there are even greater doubts about his ability to get the trip with Excellent Art being much less of a stamina influence as a sire. Skyelady’s previous progeny Omber Glaze and Remembrance Of You both won over 7 furlongs and there appear to be clear stamina concerns. However, he is clearly a well balanced and classy horse and it is hoped that his class will see him through
PIONEER    (Phoenix Tower  x Riyasat)
TRAINER :-Malesh Narredu                                     
WEIGHT:-   57 kgs.
JOCKEY :-P.Trevor                                                  
DRAW :- 4
STARTS :-6                                                              
WINS :- 3
Probably the leading 3 year old in Western India in his juvenile campaign in Mumbai, showing an impressive turn of foot to win a 6 furlong maiden on debut beating the more experienced Oomph and then going on to claim the Breeders Produce Stakes on his 2nd start beating Mozart and Adjudicate. He was the most fancied of the local contingent for the Poonawalla Million but looked nowhere near his best that day, finishing up a poor 7th and was later found to have had an infection when scoped. He was rested and taken to Bangalore for the summer but ran just once in a Million race where he was again well beaten behind Star Superior. Returning to Western India he raced again after a break of 2 months and returned to winning ways when pipping Bottega Louie on the post over 1400M before going on to finish 3rd to Excellent in the S.A. Poonawalla Multi Million last time out where he was 2 lengths adrift, conceding 2 kilos. He was not given the best of rides that day, kept wide throughout and challenging on the wide outside but he did not appear to be making up too much ground that day in the closing stages. He appears more likely to stay the 2000M trip with his dam Riyasat winning the Indian Oaks and Phoenix Tower progeny do at least get this far. On paper one would have to give him a chance of gaining revenge on Excellent over this longer trip and he does appear to be a strong each way contender
BUSHTOPS     (Archipenko   x Etroubles)
TRAINER :-M.K. Jadhav                                          
WEIGHT:-   57 kgs.
JOCKEY :-  A. Sandesh                                            
DRAW :- 6
STARTS :-3                                                              
WINS :- 1
Got abroad grey for the stable of M.K. Jadhav, he is being touted by many as the dark horse to claim this prestigious event. Making his debut back in March over 1400M in the R.J. Kolah Trophy, he made a pleasing debut when finishing runner up to Augustus Caesar and was a warm fancy next time out to go one better. However something was clearly amiss that day as he ran way below par and ended up a wretched 6th behind Truly Epic who beat him by about 6 lengths that day. He was put away for the rest of the season and reappeared after a long break in Pune about 3 weeks ago and looked a vastly improved animal. He made every one sit up and take notice at the ease with which he covered ground when toying with Jetfire and cantered home in a 7 furlong maiden with Sandesh barely having to move a muscle to win with ridiculous ease. He is sure to improve substantially as that run came after a long lay off but clearly has plenty to do on official ratings, being rated way below Excellent and Desperado. His trackwork since the run has been quite exceptional and he appears to be more likely to stay the 2000 M trip. He could prove to be the Joker in the pack and is one to consider at a more attractive price
In the final scheme of things it promises to be a battle royale between the two Champion Milers Excellent and Desperado with both uncertain stayers over this trip. Pioneer must be considered on the handicap and for those looking for more value, Bushtops looks to be a promising outsider
(Disclaimer : Views are entirely that of the correspondent only and RWITC takes no responsibility for the same) 

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