CHENNAI: As Cyrus Madhan, racing expert and former chairman of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, summed up at the press conference, it’s a “homecoming” for the horse racing fraternity when the Madras Race Club hosts the prestigious Indian Turf Invitation Cup here this weekend after a gap of 11 years.
“The infrastructure at the MRC has been exceptional and the venue holds historic importance. I hope this weekend brings back the grand old days of Madras. We all look forward to it,” said Cyrus.
The MRC missed out the opportunity to host the event in 2011 due to organisational issues but this time around it has left no stone unturned in an effort to make a grand comeback. The total stake on offer, not counting the trophy value, is Rs 4.4 crore.
Chairman of the MRC, R. Ramakrishnan, said the successful conduct of the Invitation Cup would be a fitting tribute to turf baron Dr M.A.M. Ramaswamy who passed away last year.
“I will be failing in my duty, if I don’t pay glowing tributes to Dr M.A.M. A few months before he died, he gave away `6 crore as sponsorship for this event and he wanted MRC to proudly showcase its organisation skills. Here we are! It’s a happy occasion as we are hosting the Cup after a decade. By rotation, we get to host it again only in 2022,” he added.
The Invitation weekend, that will feature 16 races, has attracted 213 horses from across the country. As many as 35 outstation trainers including the marquee names such as Mallesh Narredu, Pesi Shroff and Padmanabhan are in the fray.
The field also has two foreign jockeys in David Allan (astride Padmanabhan-trained Desert God) and O’Donoghue (riding Shroff-trained Costa Del Sol).
Cyrus said the Cup has attracted a quite a few running from the classic crop. “With Desert God being the chief aspirant there, is he going to do a Quasar (last year’s winner) and Tintinnabulation (who stunned the field in 2013). Let’s wait and see,” he added.
The darling of the local punters, however, is Robert Foley-trained Be Safe who will be ridden by P.S. Chouhan. “MAM was very fond of him.”
The horse could do no wrong until he disappointed in the Invitation Cup last year — Be Safe was upset by Quasar. He has been confined to Chennai and not seen in any other circuits, so Be Safe remains a mystery. He has got the reputation, the ability and the class. Can he redeem himself?,” asked Cyrus.
Foley, a long-time trainer in MAM’s stable, is confident that Be Safe would comeback to his own self. “We had a couple of mock races here and he did well. We had a solid preparation,” said Foley.
Ever since he won the Invitation last year, Quasar, trained by Mallesh Narredu and ridden by Yash Narredu, has been the wonder horse of the Indian racing circuit.
“When he pipped Be Safe, people said it was a flash in the pan. But, since then, he has churned out incredible wins. No doubt, he is one of the all time greats,” he said.
Trainer Mallesh said only Chennai was left to be conquered for Quasar. “He has performed well everywhere. He travels well and the Chennai weekend has been our target.”...