Lady In Lace ready to deliver on India's biggest stage - 16 Jan 19
It is the most sought after prize in the Indian racing calendar. The purse is extraordinary. A victory in the race is what every working trainer wants to add to his resume. It is the contest that every jockey dreams of winning. The Indian Derby carries immense prestige and confers indisputable bragging rights on the winner.<br><br>The Indian Derby will be run at the Mahalakshmi Race Course in Mumbai this afternoon. There is no stand out and as a consequence, there will not be an odds on proposition. There is no dearth in quality. It is a 12-runner field that includes winners of several Classics at different centres. The fair sex is well represented. Five of them join seven boys. <br><br>There are some interesting stories associated with this year’s Indian Derby. Lady In Lace, one of the fillies and one of the better fancied runners, attracted the attention of Mr Shapoor Mistry after her romp in the Golconda 1000 Guineas. A longtime patron of horseracing in India, Mr Mistry is yet to win the Derby. It is reported that he paid a king’s ransom to get a share in the K S V Prasad<br>Raju-trained miss. Vindication came in the Indian 1000 Guineas when Lady In Lace had the measure of the unbeaten Ruffina and Windsor Forest who, in her next outing, emerged victorious in the Bangalore 1000 Guineas. Will further vindication come in the big race this afternoon? <br><br>Lady In Lace, in another noteworthy highlight, has thrust the Hyderabad-based Prasad Raju into the national racing spotlight. Mr Raju, to whom I spoke three days ago, is taking it all in his stride and is showing cautious optimism.<br><br>Aggregated, from Malesh Narredu’s yard, won the Calcutta 2000 Guineas in his second career start. If that was not enough history-making, Aggregated, in his third trip to the starting gate, won the richly-endowed Calcutta Derby. The Indian Derby marks the fourth lifetime start for Aggregated, owned by a group headed by Mr D A Nanda. His commitment to the sport has been unwavering. Silvestre De Souza has been flown in to ride Aggregated. Silvestre has won the English riding title twice in the past three years. He won the 2009 Derby with Antonios beating Set Alight.<br><br>Trainer Darius Byramji and jockey Y S Srinath, battle-hardened veterans and champions in their own right, combine their might when sending out the formidable Prevalent Force. A son of Multidimensional, Prevalent Force has won six races in a row and seems to thrive on racing. In a sense, Prevalent Force is owned by foreign connections. The owners are from Sri Lanka. After an undistinguished debut when placing sixth, the Darius Byramji trainee has rattled off six consecutive victories in some of India’s big Classics. In his most recent start, the South India Derby, Prevalent Force unleased a hard-to-believe turn of foot down the lane.<br><br>I had a word with jockey Srinath at the presentation ceremony. I asked him how Prevalent Force stacked up with Lady In Lace, Aggregated and Manifold. Srinath smiled and said, “ come Derby time, we’ll show what we can do.” <br><br>Sana deserves a paragraph. She won everything put on her plate. In the Kolkata Derby, she was an odds on choice. It was a muddling race. She missed the kick. The pace was not to her liking. The race left trainer Bharath Singh disheartened. Yes, Sana, trainer Singh, feels has a critical point to prove. Will he be able to do it? Patel Trevor replaces Dasrath Singh as Sana’s jockey. <br><br><br>Let us take a look at the others in the Derby field. Big Sur has won two races recently in Class III and II. Fergus Sweeney rides. It is a big ask and Big Sur needs to elevate his game several notches.<br><br>Grand Passage, from Karthik Ganapathy’s barn, is a maiden. It is a mountain to climb and it is a steep mountain.<br><br>Another Karthik Ganapathy ward, Perfect Star was third in the Indian 2000 Guineas. That form has not been franked as Castlebridge was beaten subsequently in the 2000-metre Ruia Gold Cup by Rochester. Perfect Star’s prowess will be put to a serious test.<br><br>Rochester, from S K Sunderji’s stable, has been good in his right. He ended Castlebridge’s Classic aspirations. I believe he needs a find a great deal to be able to beat more accomplished rivals.<br><br>Zenon is by Champs Elysees, a racehorse who won Graded races in more than one continent. The Pesi Shroff charge has won his last two races in Class III. He will stay but his lack of exposure to top flight competition will be a drawback. <br><br>Daffodil, a filly trained by Shroff, was seventh in the Oaks two weeks ago. She has three career wins. I cannot see her mounting an effective challenge.<br><br>We now come to Manifold. The Shroff pupil won the summer Bangalore Derby. David Probert steered her to a well-deserved success in the Indian Oaks on January 21. She is in burning form. She is a course and distance winner. Pesi Shroff has had eight Derby wins as a jockey. His sole Derby win as a trainer came with Jacqueline in 2010.<br><br>Finally, there is Themis. The Lord Shanakill filly, trained by M K Jadhav, was runner-up to Manifold in the Indian Oaks. She is a progressive type. At this point in her career, I do not see her winning a prize like the Indian Derby. It is an irony that jockey Neeraj Rawal, winner of several big races in the past year, can only get a second tier mount in a race like the Indian Derby.<br><br>Here’s my verdict..Lady In Lace beat Mahateji in the Golconda 1000 Guineas. The latter, in her next two races, won the Golconda Oaks and the Derby. Lady In Lace beat Ruffina in the Indian 1000 Guineas and the later managed handicap company next time out. Since her defeat at the hands of Lethal Force in rain in the Hyderabad Derby, Lady In Lace made mincemeat of her opposition in the Pune Derby. She has been on an inexorable march since. An infection has been treated. Suraj Narredu tells me she is training like a prize fighter. I feel that the Prasad Raju trainee will turn the tables on Prevalent Force.<br><br>You can now see that decisions in horse racing are, more often than not, visceral. The cerebral part goes away.