Excitement builds as elite contenders vie for glory | BySharan Kumar

Posted on - 03 Feb 2024

Excitement builds as elite contenders vie for glory
By Sharan Kumar
The Grade 1 HPSL Indian Derby, the pinnacle event in the Indian Racing Calendar, has attracted a field of top contenders. Among them are individual Derby winners from various centers, including Enabler, Synthesis, Jamari besides the emerging sensation Jendayi. Despite Jendayi's relative lack of experience in the elite league, expectations are high for her performance in the Derby.
Trained by Malesh Narredu, Enabler, a progeny of Epsom Derby winner Ruler Of The World, has impressed by ticking all the boxes and securing a stylish victory in the lead-up race to the Indian Derby. Enabler is anticipated to dominate the Derby field. Pesi Shroff presents a formidable challenge with dual Derby winner Jamari, dual classic winner Jendayi (remaining unbeaten in her career thus far), and skilled contenders Christofle and the tenacious Capitolium.
Despite Shroff's impressive stable, Enabler, slipping from his grasp, stands out as the frontrunner in the race. Synthesis, the Deccan Derby winner and Indian 2000 Guineas champion, faced a setback in the Ruia Trophy but has bounced back as evidenced by her workouts. Whether Synthesis possesses the ability to clinch victory in the Indian Derby remains uncertain.
The Narredu racing dynasty, aptly characterized by the formidable number of family members actively engaged in horse racing across India, has firmly established its dominance in the classics. The clan has clinched seven Derbies during the Monsoon Season. With all the factors aligning in their favor, a lingering question emerges: Can their streak of luck propel them to the pinnacle of success for a four-year-old in Indian racing? Their seemingly flawless execution and enchanting achievements have become a source of envy among fellow professionals.
Enabler showed striking impression in his debut victory at Pune over a shorter distance. Despite facing obstruction for a clear run, he displayed a remarkable burst of speed when angled out, showcasing immense potential. This potential was subsequently validated with wins in the S A Poonawalla Million and the Gr 1 Pune Derby, where he outclassed the Bangalore Derby winner Jamari with minimal effort.
Facing an equally formidable opponent in the mile-long Indian 2000 Guineas, Enabler found the challenge demanding but finished strongly, securing a commendable second place behind Synthesis. However, it was in the Ramniwas Ruia Trophy over 2000 meters that his resilience truly shone, propelling him to the position of the favoured contender for the Indian Derby.
In pursuit of Christofle, who had gained an edge in the final furlong, Enabler covered substantial ground and concluded with both strength and impeccable timing. This performance solidified his position as the horse to beat in the upcoming Indian Derby, where he will be guided by Malesh Narredu's son, Yash Narredu. Having experienced notable success in the past year, Yash now faces the challenge of managing expectations and pressure in this high-stakes race.
Trained by Pesi Shroff, the highly rated Jendayi has garnered significant attention. This Gleneagles progeny triumphed in both the Indian 1000 Guineas and the Indian Oaks under the guidance of English champion jockey Oisin Murphy. Regrettably, Oisin won't be riding her in the Indian Derby due to prior commitments elsewhere, leading to Pradeep Chouhan stepping in as a capable replacement. The choice of the jockey is interesting as champion English jockey Tom Marquand has been declared to ride the stable’s other strong fancy Christofle.
Jendayi' s victory in the Indian Oaks over the mile and a half displayed remarkable ease, capturing the interest of observers regarding her untapped potential. While the Oaks field may not have featured top-tier competition, Jendayi' s continuous improvement in each outing emphasizes the scope she has. This fast-learning filly appears ready for the challenge. Pesi Shroff's camp hopes she sustains her winning streak, adding another accolade to the trainer's illustrious career, which already includes a record eight wins as a jockey in the Indian Derby.
Shroff also fields the formidable Christofle, whose impressive performance in the Ruia trip against Enable showcased his ability. Despite being outshone on significant occasions, Christofle' s chances cannot be dismissed lightly. His straightforward racing style, staying close to the pace, positions him as a potential threat in the crowded Indian Derby field, where latecomers often face challenges navigating through the pack. Top rider from England Tom Marquand will be guiding the fortunes of this strong contender. Marquand, well-recognized in English racing circles, boasts impeccable timing skills to maximize a horse's potential.
Among the proven contenders is Jamari, bred at Nanoli Stud Farm, displaying consistent excellence by winning back-to-back Bangalore Derbies and finishing second to Enabler in the Pune Derby, overcoming setbacks. Trevor Patel's successful partnership with her underscores her tenacity. While racing recently on January 26 in the Bangalore Derby may raise concerns about her readiness, historical successes indicate that horses running in both events often fare well in the Indian Derby. The recent example of Prasanna Kumar-trained War Hammer winning the Bangalore Derby and then dominating the Indian Derby field in a week offers optimism for Jamari's chances.
Rajesh Narredu's Synthesis would have been the top pick among contenders if not for a lackluster third-place finish to Enabler in the Ruia Trophy, coupled with a post-race lameness issue. Despite this setback, Suraj Narredu, enjoying a remarkable winning streak with six Derbys since the monsoon season and recently achieving a century of classics, expresses confidence in Synthesis. The progeny of Speaking of Which is shaping up well, reminiscent of last year's Indian Derby winner, Mirra, also a descendant of Speaking Of Which. Synthesis, known for alternating between poor and exceptional performances, cannot be underestimated, especially with Suraj Narredu's skilled riding. The mile-and-a-half trip poses no challenge for Synthesis, backed by a strong support base, making him a formidable contender.
Trainer Prithviraj, relatively unknown in classic racing circles, came close to a surprising victory as his contender Madame Rich nearly toppled Jamari in the Bangalore Derby. Madame Rich struggled with an outward drift, racing on the outer edge of the grass track and losing crucial ground. Despite these challenges, she showcased remarkable speed, emerging as the fastest finisher in the race. Encouraged by this performance, the trainer has boldly entered the temperamental filly in the Indian Derby as a final addition. Madame Rich's strong showings in both the Guineas and the Derby indicate her genuine racing ability, dispelling any notion of her performance being a mere fluke.
Giant King, Exuma, Dream Alliance, and Ameerah are notable performers, despite lacking significant wins in major races. While their participation adds to the field's diversity, it also introduces the potential for a surprise outcome, given the traffic situations they might create when dropping out of contention. The Indian Derby has a history of producing unexpected results, and the presence of such contenders further heightens the anticipation of unpredictable outcomes, showcasing the race's unpredictable element.