Rajesh Narredu trained Star Superior won the Gr 1 Kingfisher Signature Indian Derby, the biggest race of the Mumbai racing calendar, in spectacular fashion in front of a fairly big gathering at Mahalakshmi on Sunday.
The pre-race apprehension about Sir Cecil`s lack of an ideal preparation and the niggles that he had could hurt his chances came true as the champion horse struggled in the straight when the race came to the boil and conceded defeat though he was gallant in his performance. Jockey David Allan got down from the horse well after crossing the winning post and it was clear that the amazing horse felt his legs and he reportedly came back lame.
Dr Cyrus Poonawalla who had bought a share in the horse from the original owners Rajesh Narredu and Sanjay Kumar Shinde at a phenomenal price, had boldly stated that Star Superior would win the Indian Derby as he believed that the best horse in the fray Sir Cecil did not have the ideal preparation and given the fact that he had setback, his horse should have no problem in winning the race. His words became prophetic as Star Superior won the biggest race of the Indian racing calendar more easily than anyone, including the connections, had dreamed.
Sir Cecil had beaten Star Superior on three occasions the two had clashed but this race was one big opportunity for the son of Excellent Art to avenge his defeat. The victory came as a big boost to the Poonawalla Stud Farm whose stallion Excellent Art had been dubbed as one not capable of getting Derby winners over the gruelling trip of a mile and a half and that his progeny were good sprinters. Star Superior became the second horse after Indian Pharaoh to win over this trip and this should boost the credentials of the Poonawalla Stud Farm resident stallion. Star Superior`s win provided the 10th Indian Derby success for the famed nursery of India. The victory brought so much cheer to Zavaray Poonawalla that he came to the racecourse to enjoy the moment from his hospital bed.
For young trainer Rajesh Narredu, this was a big feat, winning the Derby so early in his career. Rajesh has proved to be a lucky owner as his other horse Super Storm had won the Indian Derby in his colours before he became a trainer. The trainer`s hard work coupled with a brilliant ride given by his brother Suraj Narredu and the excellent teamwork of the racing family of India was responsible for Star Superior reaching the summit of excellence in Indian racing. ``I was pretty sure that I would win the race the moment I began to make my move in the straight as I could see that Sir Cecil was struggling and I had the other opponents well covered. I had a hunch that I will be able to get Star Superior to beat Sir Cecil one day and it materialised in the Indian Derby said Suraj who recorded his second Indian Derby success after having won on Be Safe which was trained by his uncle Malesh Narredu. Apart from achieving the big feat of saddling the Indian Derby winner, Rajesh had the additional thrill of partly owning two Indian Derby winners.
Breeder Simone Poonawalla said that her father Zavaray had put the stellar efforts to get the horse in ship shape condition along with the trainer and the jockey and this ensured that the dream came true. It has been a glorious week for our stud farm as apart from the progeny of Excellent Art dominating the weekend`s racing, the progeny of Arazan too had done wonderfully well.
The racegoers believed that Sir Cecil was an exceptional horse and he would be able to overcome the physical problems that he suffered from and the unbeaten grey went to the post as a firm favourite. Calcutta Derby winner Adjudicate was the second favourite while Star Superior ran at long odds as the majority, supported by the pedigree experts believed that there was no stamina influence in the family of Star Superior. ``I searched hard to find if there was any stamina influence that I could trace to the family of Star Superior and my results yielded negative results about this aspect of Star Superior,`` one person who has been long in the business of bloodstock breeding had said. Horses have an uncanny knack of throwing the best-argued theories to the dustbin and that the performance often defines the pedigree of a horse was once again highlighted by the emphatic win of Star Superior who won the race in a smart time of two minutes 28.924 seconds. Adjudicate who was second five lengths behind clocked two minutes 29.761 seconds while Sir Cecil, with all his problems, clocked two minutes 30.131 seconds which was no mean feat under the circumstances.
The race was run a furious pace, with Valegro setting a brisk pace followed by Sacred Roman and Sir Cecil while Star Superior, Pioneer, Adjudicate were spaced out some lengths behind the favourite. Rounding the final turn, David Allan made his bid on Sir Cecil and the alarm bells were immediately sounded when Sir Cecil took a long time to overtake the pace-setter. Sir Cecil led for a while before Suraj Narredu brought Start Superior with a blistering turn of foot. The progeny of Excellent Art stormed clear to have the race sewn up a long way from home. Adjudicate was alighted to the task by jockey Sandesh but the filly had an uphill task. The Calcutta Derby winner covered up the leeway on Sir Cecil but found Star Superior too good for her. And had to settle for the third slot.
Star Superior was a worthy winner. His record, as has already been said, would have been more imposing had he had not encountered Sir Cecil in three of his big clashes. The victory of Star Superior was in confirmation of the belief that the Indian Derby does not conform to any script and the action that unfolds produces a winner that may not conform to any well-argued theory. The Indian Derby which is the last of the Derbys to be run in India comes at a time when the horses would be beginning to feel the strain of the long and arduous campaign. Some dreams are made while that of others are smashed. This, in essence, defines the romance of the Indian Derby. For us who are in the business of news, we are conditioned to expect the unexpected.
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New England (A Sandesh up) winner of the Rusi Patel Trophy (Gr.3)
Hunt For Gold (Y S Srinath up) winner of the Ebco Worksmart Breeders` Produce Stakes (Gr.3)
Smasher (N S Parmar up) winner of the S. M. Shah Eclipse Stakes Of India (Gr.2)
Headway (S Zervan up) winner of the B. K. Rattonsey Memorial Maiden Multi-Million
Star Superior (Suraj Narredu up) winner of the Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby (Gr.1)
Flaming Martini (David Allan up) winner of the Padmini & Gobind Jhangiani Million
True Grit (R Ajinkya up) winner of the Dr. M A M Ramaswamy Million