Monday, February 03, 2014

Derby report


Written off summarily by the pundits after his loss at the hands of Murioi in the Indian 2000 Guineas, Alaindair trained by Altamash Ahmed used the 25,000-strong Derby crowd as witness to avenge his humiliation and inflict a crushing defeat on his conqueror Murioi and 13 other thoroughbreds by posting a sensational victory in the grade 1, McDowell Signature Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi racecourse on Sunday.

Barring Ameeta Mehra who bred the Multidimensional - God's Grace four year old at her Usha stud farm and also has a share in him, Alaindair's Derby victory gave all others--trainer Altamash Ahmed, jockey YS Srinath and owners Dr Nevill Devlaliwalla and Gaurav Sethi--their first taste of the heady Derby success.

The massive crowd noisily cheered the 15 Derby runners as the gates clicked open for the greatest race of the Indian racing calendar. Within final moments leading to the start of the race, faovurite Murioi was backed to the exclusion of all his rivals, getting hammered down to 5 to 4, while palpable lack of support for Jeremiah drove his odds up to 9 to 2, with all others being pushed beyond the double-digit mark. Alaindair was quoted at 15 to 1, and with some support, finally closed at 13 to 1.

Jockey Srinath settled Alaindair on the inner rails in mid-bunch even as Isn't She Special (David Allan up) employed the same tactics that earned her the Oaks victory and hit the front, closely chased by Archie, Jeremiah, Southern Emperor, Starry Eyes, Agostini and Murioi, followed by Alaindair and the rest. More or less same order prevailed until they approached the final turn when Jeremiah (S Zervan up) made his move to pounce on Isn't She Special and Starry Eyes (Sandesh up) moved up fast on the inner rails to come into contention, but before Jeremiah could catch Isn't She Special, CD Hayes put favourite Murioi into top gear who devoured ground to assume command, and for a moment it looked this 72nd edition of the Derby would break its image as the graveyard of favourites.

But in a brilliant move that dripped of supreme confidence, jockey YS Srinath pulled out Alaindair to get almost onto the center of the track, and unleashed a powerful stretch run that was simply scintillating. Alaindair responded magnificently to Srinath's call and pounced on Murioi with such savage force that it ceased to be a contest in the last 100 meters. A dispirited Murioi finally slipped to fourth spot as Starry Eyes and Circle Of Life managed to edge him out at the wire.

Srinath 'over the moon'
"I am over the moon," jockey Srinath, who won his first Indian Derby in what most perceive as the last leg of his career, said after the race, "even after crossing the winning post, I couldn't believe I have won the Derby! It all looked so unreal."

Srinath added, "When I saw Murioi making his move so early, I knew this was the day I would get him, and switched to the outside to make my bid."

Owners delirious
Owner Dr Nevill Devlaliwalla, in whose colours Alaindair ran, was jumping with joy as he shook what looked like an unending stream of people wanting to shake hands with him and congratulate. Later, from the trophy presentation arena, he said, "When I saw Srinath pulling Alaindair out and setting him alight, I knew my horse was going to be there, we would now finish one or two."

Gaurav Sethi, who owns a part in Alaindair, confessed he felt delirious, when he said, "I don't know how I am going to sleep tonight, maybe I am going to keep on talking about this non-stop until I fall off to sleep."

Trainer thrilled
Trainer Altamash Ahmed, who had nursed Derby hopes last year for An Acquired Taste owned by the same connections which were later belied, considered himself lucky that he didn't have to wait long. "Winning the Indian Derby is a dream for every professional, this is a great moment, I have no words to express my gratitude--God has been very kind."

'Shabash, my boys!'
"I dedicate this success to my staff at the Usha stud," Ameeta Mehra, who bred Alaindair said in a live interview, "my boys, if you are watching this or listening to me right now, I want you to know that this has become possible only because of your hard work, well done my boys."


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