If any confirmation was needed about Be Safe`s undisputed supremacy over a new frontier, the four year old son of Holy Roman Emperor provided it in a sensational manner by swamping the opposition in a record time of two minutes 27.7 seconds in the biggest test of his racing career, the Gr 1 McDowell Signature Indian Derby in front of a huge crowd on Sunday. Suraj Narredu rode the champion with supreme confidence to cap a great year for himself and his uncle, trainer Malesh Narredu. The duo was associated with five Derby successes all over the country this year.
Be Safe simply towered over for the rest for the quality of his wins as also because he had already beaten the principal opponents at some time or the other. Also Quasar whom he had not met before also dwarfed in front of him because of the comparison with the other horses he had beaten. The only question mark was the fact that Be Safe was going over an untested distance which had often proved to be the hurdle that many a brilliant horse failed to cross. Be Safe proved by his performance that no frontier is beyond his compass.
Be Safe (Suraj Narredu up) winner of the McDowell Signature Indian Derby (Gr.1), being led in by trainer Malesh Narredu
Jockey Suraj rode an intelligent race unperturbed by the evolving situation which may not have unfolded exactly the way he would have anticipated. For one, having got the innermost draw, he had to move to take position and in the event of not getting a cover in front, he had to think on his feet. Shivalik Showers was there to set the pace which enabled Suraj to settled Be Safe in about the fifth position ahead of Tiger Tops, Quasars, the likely threats who surprisingly did not race the way they had done in the past, allowing Be Safe to get the first run on them. In a race that was run at a furious pace, Be Safe enjoyed the forward position.
Rounding the final bend, Be Safe was cruising up with the front runners falling back and Tiger Tops ranging alongside. Suraj had to make his move a fraction earlier because of danger of being cramped for space. He pushed Be Safe to take over the running well before the 300 metres pushing the favourite to quicken further. Be Safe did not need further alerts as he stretched away to win by a widening margin of four lengths. Suraj was not required to use the whip even once as Be Safe simply knew what he had to do. That was to pulverize the opposition. Tiger Tops held off Quasar for the second spot by a neck. Aquamarine moved well from behind to take the fourth spot, with a neck separating the second, third and fourth placed horses. Shivalik Storm was faraway fifth ahead of Bold Majesty.
Suraj who thus rode his first Indian Derby winner could not have asked for a better year. In his career spanning well over a decade, success in Indian classics had eluded him. This year itself he won three of them. ``From the day I started riding Be Safe, I knew he was something special. I told my dad two days ago, that Be Safe will simply thrash the opposition.`` Such was my confidence. ``I may not have sat on the best horses in the past but I can say that Be Safe is simply the best I have ridden and he no doubt is a legend,`` he said. ``I was prepared for any eventuality and even if I did not get any cover by way of a pace maker, I would have won even with an aggressive run in front. Passing the half way stage itself, I knew that I had so much of the horse under me that I would win in the manner I did,`` added Suraj.
The Narredu family among themselves has won over 200 classics, with Suraj joining his dad Satish and uncle Malesh the Hall of Fame of Indian Derby winning jockeys. Satish and Malesh have won the Indian Derby both as jockeys and as trainers. Incidentally when Amazing Bay, Indictment and Be Safe won, the jockeys did not resort to the use of the whip but relied on a hand drive.
Be Safe is sure to get the status of highest rated horse in the country. There is one more summit clash waiting for him against five year old Amazing Grace in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup next month at the same venue. After this performance, one has no hesitation in saying that Be Safe is in a different league.
It was a brilliant day for trainer Malesh who also won the richly endowed B K Rattonsey Memorial Maiden Multi-Million for three year olds. Colombiana came in for strong support on the basis of his eye-catching forward run of last time and was taken on a start to finish mission by his son Yash Narredu and held off a strong challenge in the end by the fancied Kyoto to land the rich prize. Stateira rallied late which could only fetch her the third spot.
The Derby day card was unimaginatively planned with pretty ordinary class races ruling the roost. The packaging of racing on the big day could be made better with the addition of group races for different age groups and distances.
Mansoor Shah trained Midnight Dancer who showed out in his last win over a shorter trip was the betting rage in the 2400metres McDowell`s No 1 Platinum Trophy, a race for horses rated 20 to 46. The progeny of Hurricane run who is bred to say pounced in the front running Bethage and won the race in emphatic fashion with a powerful effort in the straight.
Favourite Señorita Evita justified the strong support in the 1000 metres White Mischef Cup, a race for horses rated 60 to 86. The name of the race perhaps spelt trouble for the favourite who was sluggish at the start and her jockey compounded his problems by losing the whip. The favourite just about managed to get up in time to measure long shot Gangnam Style. Otherwise punters might have ended up thinking about White Mischief more than a passing reference to the name of the race. Spider Man did not run to expectations finishing a poor third.
Sacred Fire justified the short odds in the 1600 metres Four Swasons Cup, a race for maiden three year olds, rallying well in the straight to win easily from Mogadishu and late rushing Sweep Aside.
Pesi Shroff trained Your Royal Majesty showed vast improvement when thrashing the field in the 1400 metres United Spirits Challenge, a race for horses rated 60 to 86. Favourite Polydences suffered too meekly for comfort. Febonacci Sequences too flopped miserably.