Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sweeping Success Gives Dr. MAM his 11th Invitation

The ‘Gold Brown’ belt camp has, I am sure, a large trophy-filled chamber and the collection got a significant addition on Sunday. Bourbon King carried the hopes of a majority of fans but it was Sweeping Success, a filly in the hands of jockey B. Prakash, who after striking the front midway down the Malakpet lane, galloped on resolutely to help Dr. MAM Ramaswamy make a successful defence of India’s most glittering horse race. It was Dr. MAM’s 11th win in the Invitation Cup. To Dr. MAM, rewriting the Guinness Book of World Records comes naturally. He has won the piece de resistance of the Indian racing calendar five times in a row. Talk of a dynasty, Dr. MAM has won the Invitation Cup 25% of the time since its inception in 1963.

Sweeping Success, a filly by Placerville out of Lady Moupa, has had a productive season and emerging victorious in the Invitation Cup was the culmination of a string of high-profile wins. In the Indian Derby, over the never-ending Mahalaxmi homestretch, the S. Ganapathy trained filly had lost a duel of attrition to Hotstepper, ridden by the wily Mick Kinane. On Sunday, Hotstepper, Frankie Dettori up, was content to toil in the rear and at no pint, raised the hopes of his supporters.

Imperial View set out on a steady gallop. Retribution took forward position and tracked the leader. Sweeping Success lay third and Bourbon King was fourth. Noble Prince, travelling in the clear, was in middivision in the ten-horse field. Regal Connection, the Calcutta Derby champion, was allowed to coast and find his rhythm and was several lengths off the lead. Hotstepper raced at the back of the pack.

As the field raced down the backstretch and got ready to negotiate the bend, the race began to acquire a definitive shape. Imperial View was showing signs of weakening. Retribution was unable to keep up the chase. Bourbon King, in obvious distress, was beating a hasty retreat. Richard Hughes called on Noble Prince but the response was not as strong as trainer Padmanabhan would have wanted. Hotstepper was not making forward movement. On a track that showed no mercies to off-the-pace horses, Regal Connection was put in top gear by C Alford and the Khaitan-owned colt was surging and beginning to make an issue of the Invitation Cup. Jockey B. Prakash, having made the most of a ground-saving journey, was out of the pocket to challenge Imperial View. Not many moments had passed and Sweeping Success had sailed into the lead. With Regal Connection closing the gap in a hurry and Prakash, hard at work to keep the advantage, the fans were being treated to a finish quite unlike last year when Southern Empire won by the length of the Hastings stretch. Ruby Queen, late on the scene, was moving menacingly. The judges had to call for a photo. Sweeping Success had held on by a neck over Regal Connection. A length and three quarters away in third was Ruby Queen. Noble Prince, three parts of a length off, took fourth. As a matter of fact, the first six finishers were separated by four and three quarter lengths. The time for the 2400-metres trip was 2 minutes 29.57 seconds. Sweeping Success was 6-1 in the wagering.

I caught up with trainer Ganapathy. The ever-courteous S.Ganapathy spoke in glowing terms of Sweeping Success. “She has a great record. Been in fine form this season. In the Derby, she was asked to move too soon. Prakash executed our plan to perfection today. He left well, took position and had a very good trip. I knew we had a great chance with the track favouring front-end horses.”

Trainer Ganapathy continued. “She’s a tough filly who can handle the boys.”

My next question was about Bourbon King.” The track has been playing hard. He could not handle it. We will take a look at him. At this point, all I can say is that there is no negative news.”

I asked Ganapathy about decision-making in the Dr MAM camp. “It is a team effort. We are all involved. I make the recommendation and Dr MAM is consulted.”

I had a quick exchange with Colm O’Donoghue as he returned to the paddock. “Did he break down?”

Colm O’Donoghue uttered one word. “Bingo.”

I believe Colm’s one-word reply will be confirmed soon. Something went seriously wrong with the colt who has set Indian turf on fire the past 12 months.

I sent word to speak to jockey Prakash. I waited and waited and gave up.

I had a word with Richard Hughes who was aboard Noble Prince. “He raced well. After all, we finished fourth. There was no lameness problem. Never did I get a good feel, however.”

Another Invitation Cup in the books and a well-run and well-planned carnival. The Hyderabad team, headed by Mr Surender Reddy, the Chairman, did a magnificent job. Malakpet is the cleanest and the best-kept racecourse I have seen in recent days in India.

The Invitation Cup is always high drama. This year was no exception. A deserving filly won it. The favourite fell by the wayside. The Indian Derby winner was nowhere to be seen. The ceremonial aspect of any race meeting is what makes it special. Malakpet respects tradition and it was a deliberate and well-executed plan that made the weekend so very special to racing fans.

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