Corfe Castle sparkles in winning debut at Malakpet - 16 Jan 19
Monday was Golconda 1000 Guineas (Grade II) day at Malakpet in Hyderabad. Lady In Lace, a going-away winner in the Pune Derby, jumped off the page and was the 26/100 favorite in the betting ring in Guindy (Chennai) where I watched the action from Hyderabad.<br> <br>It was a vintage Suraj Narredu ride. Lady In Lace was held up until the final 400 metres. When Suraj let the Chinese Whisper filly go, the first Classic of the Hyderabad winter campaign was put to bed in a matter of moments. The pride of the Prasad Raju yard gave Suraj Narredu an armchair ride, a term that racing connoisseurs use to indicate total dominance. Was Lady OfLace’s widely-anticipated victory the story line of the day? The answer is an emphatic ‘No.’<br> <br>A freshman colt was getting his racing baptism in the second race on Monday. A member of the L.D’Silva barn, Corfe Castle had drawn 13 in the 13-horse field in the 1100-metre dash. Corfe Castle had done satisfactory work. His blood lines were excellent and he looked a picture in the paddock. David Allan was at Malakpet for a solitary engagement and what a ride it turned out to be.<br> <br>Corfe Castle lost ground breaking awkwardly. Jockey Allan, unperturbed, let colt find the rhythm. As the field straightened for home, Allan pushed the button. Corfe Castle accelerated in scintillating style to go between horses and hit the front midstretch. It was a stunning performance.<br> <br>It was visually breathtaking, aesthetically pleasing and viscerally heart-warming. In India, I have not seen a two year-old make a winning debut in such tremendous style. The connections have an exceptional freshman. At this point, I will make Corfe Castle the early favorite for the Poonawalla Million at Mahalakshmi in February next year. <br> <br>Excellent Art, Corfe Castle’s sire, was trained by Aiden O’Brien. I saw him win the St James Palace in 2007 at Royal Ascot. In a race that I remember vividly, in late September at Ascot in 2007, Excellent Art, Jamie Spencer up and carrying the public purse, was a split second late in the 1600 metre Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Ramonti, a Godolphin runner with Frankie Dettori, raced second, took charge early in the lane and kept the advantage under a drive. Excellent Art is turning out to be an extremely productive sire.<br> <br>Miss Danehill, Corfe Castle’s dam, is by Danehill, a much sought-after stallion until he had to be euthanized after a freak accident. Danehill was a Danzig progeny who was the son of the mighty Northern Dancer, the winner of the 1964 Kentucky Derby.<br> <br>Another freshman making an impression was Man Apart. A runner-up in his debut, Man Apart, with Trevor Patel and leaving from stall two, was a stand out but surprisingly, the odds drifted in the final minutes. Man Apart proved himself to be a class apart. Trevor jumped out alertly to assume command. The race was over a long way from home. <br> <br>Man Apart is by Varenar. In the hands of Stephane Pasquier, Varenar inflicted a defeat on the Freddy Head-trained Goldikovain the Prix La Foret Arc day in Paris in 2009. I can recollect the eerie calm that descended on Longchamp. Goldikova, ridden by the incomparable Olivier Peslier, won three Breeders’ Cup (Turf Mile) races in a row.<br> <br>I’ll be remiss if I do not devote a paragraph or two about Mumbai. Castlebridge showed us all why he sits atop the pecking order in the three year-old division. The Bharath Singh trainee hardly broke a sweat when winning the Morvi Gold Cup.<br> <br>It is the disqualification of Bottega Louie that was Sunday’s talking point. A winner by one and three parts of a length, Bottega Louie, ridden by C S Jodha, caused interference to Cambridge, the odds on choice, Trevor Patel up.<br> <br>The key question, in every objection/inquiry, is this. Would the objecting jockey have won if the (alleged) interference had not happened? On Sunday, Cambridge would not have won.<br> <br>The margin was decisive. It is a minor consideration but, in many cases, it acquires extra significance. Anything ‘accidental’ is tantamount to ‘incidental contact.’ It is part of the game.<br> <br>In Trevor Patel’s case, it was a case of self-inflicted injury. He chose to find room in a tricky environment.<br> <br>Finally, taking down a winner is sacrilege. There has to be overwhelming evidence to deprive the winner of the prize earned on the track. The word ‘overwhelming’ was conspicuous by its absence in Bottega Louie’s story.<br> <br>Let us all wish Dr Karthikeyan bon voyage as he, in his professional capacity, heads to Hong Kong next week. Sha Tin has four Group I races with an international cast. It is the extravaganza that signals the end of big league action in 2017.