Circumstances - such as industrial action and prevalence of disease - have often necessitated changes in the sequence in which the 2,400m Indian Turf Invitation Cup has been run at different centres each year in March. The influenza outbreak of late 2008 resulted in Hyderabad stepping in by holding the previous running out-of-schedule in October 2009.
The 48th running of this historic event, sponsored by the Vandrevala Foundation, will now take place this afternoon at Mahalakshmi Racecourse.
One has to go back 21 years to Exhilaration to find a McDowell Indian Derby winner who repeated on the same track (and before that to Topmost in 1974 and Red Rufus in 1966). All the other Indian Derby winners have been beaten — but all have placed, barring Rocklie in 1963! Recent examples of “Blue Riband” winners who failed to repeat include Littleover (1994), Supervite (the official winner in 1999) and Psychic Flame (2004).
Can the unparalleled Jacqueline go one better? It's certainly asking a lot of her to essay three 2,400m efforts in six weeks, even taking into account the fact that she was not hard pressed in the first of these, the HDIL Indian Oaks, and no travelling is involved. Yet, she seems so superior that it is hard to oppose her. As a rider, her trainer Pesi Shroff earned glory on seven occasions in this very race, while her pilot, Richard Hughes, has tasted success in 1999 (Running Flame) and 2000 (Smart Chieftan).
One problem after another faced by his ward Becket in the course of his abbreviated career must have added a wrinkle or two to trainer Sadakshara Padmanabhan's forehead. Fortunately the son of Hawk Wing, hero of the Poonawalla Bangalore Winter Derby, is now in fine fettle and pleasing all with some sparkling work.
A surprise change in riding plans - Suraj Narredu will now don silks on this got-abroad - has added another element to the mix. Becket could well turn the tables on Jacqueline - if she displays signs of fatigue.
A pair of challengers from Bangalore includes Arabian Prince (Chris Hayes), the Jaggi Dhariwal-trained winner of the Vijay Textiles Golconda Derby, who is an improving type with the national track record for 2,400m (2:28.07) to his credit; as such, he can hardly be dismissed. The other visitor is J. Babu Rao's Fleet Indian (Mallesh Narredu), who earned distinction in the Poonawalla Mysore Derby, but seems a notch below the best.
Hyderabad fields Sparks (P.S. Chouhan), winner of the Golconda Textiles Deccan Derby. His trainer, Shehzad Abbas, who is always optimistic, is convinced that his last run should be ignored, which would make him a live contender. Any others who start in the race would have to put up career-best performances to be sighted at the judge's box!
In the Grade I Maj. P.K. Mehra Super Mile, Dancing Dynamite, Juventus, Iaepetus and Diego Rivera resume last year's rivalry, with four-year-olds Aboline, Sea Ruler and Sprint Star worthy of consideration. It should be a cracker of a race.