If jockey Yash Narredu who is in his first year as a jockey thought that the best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations, he would have been dead right. Nobody gave a chance to Quasar to pull off a dramatic win, in fortuitous circumstances over the mighty Be Safe in the biggest race of Indian racing calendar, the Indian Turf Invitation Cup on Sunday. That such an eventuality came about sent shook the punters so hard that they were not prepared to absorb the shock and this manifested in aggressive protests, as they suspected that there was something sinister about the result and the way it came about.
The impact of the shock could be felt even as the connections were celebrating the success. For trainer Malesh Narredu who is enjoying a glorious year, it was a momentous occasion as he just led in an Invitation Cup winner which he could not accomplish as a jockey with his son Yash Narredu as the pilot. Instead of being cheered all the way along the aisle from the track to the unsaddling enclosure, the horse, the jockey and the trainer received angry reception as they threw missiles at the jockey and the horse.
There was widespread demonstration and the punters appeared to be very aggressive as they were not reconciled to the defeat of the favourite. Since the characters involved in the whole drama were all part of a big family, the belief among the majority was that it was a well executed family coup. The majority felt that Suraj Narredu had delayed his challenge so as to facilitate Quasar reaching the safety of the post. The last race of the day was delayed for more than an hour before huge presence of police restored semblance of an order. Sadly Yash Narredu could not savor the moment as he and his father Malesh could not reach the trophy presentation ceremony held in front of the Grand Stand. They surely could not face a hostile crowd.
Even given the fact the sport is plagued by glorious uncertainties, Be Safe`s defeat was something that race goers were not expecting. They had come to celebrate the glory of the champion. When super stars go down in the manner that Be Safe did, there is always a tinge of sadness. Sport thrives on super stars and Be Safe had to win simply because of his status. Suraj Narredu perhaps rode an overconfident race believing in the ability of Be Safe to overcome an adversity and he paid the price for his indiscretion. It is easy to say that luck of the race was in favour of Quasar but then Indian jockeys are often victims of their own mental makeup.
The Indian jockeys don`t ride their horses to suit its talent. Instead, they try to ride against the opposition and if things don`t go as planned, they tend to commit mistakes which could be construed as malpractice. Suraj made the mistake of tracking Amazing Grace and Alaindair and the front running Quasar was out of his radar. And when he made his move around 300 metres by pulling out as Alaindair in front was going nowhere, Quasar had established what turned out to be a winning lead. The horse took some distance to come to the galloping leg and by the time, he got going, there was panic. Though Be Safe covered ground rapidly even as Quasar was halting in his stride, the winning post cruelly came a wee bit early for the champion.
Suraj certainly made an error in committing himself to race behind what were perceived as main threats to Be Safe. Quasar was not a horse to be trifled with as evidenced by his performance in the Calcutta Derby, Golconda Derby and Indian Derby. The big made Hazara Stud Farm produce had done exceedingly well despite running at short intervals. The one month gap between the Indian Derby and this race had freshened him so much that he stood out in the paddock parade. Be Safe had been on the boil and appeared a bit jaded. This perhaps made a critical difference to the outcome of the race.
Last year`s runner up Agostini moved swiftly within the first furlong to take over the running as the field set out for the 2400 metres trip. This gave a perfect cover to Quasar who was happily settled in second position followed by Snowdrift, Spreadeagle, Amazing Grace, Alaindair, Aquamarine, Be Safe, Torch Bearer, Dare To Dream and Bold Majesty. Be Safe raced a bit keen but since the jockey had pre-decided to track Amazing Grace and Alaindair, he pulled the horse behind this duo.
Rounding the final turn, Yash pushed Quasar to take over the running and opened up a sizeable lead. Amazing Grace picked up momentum in the final 300 metres and began to cover ground. Be Safe drifted out as he was on the wrong leg before coming onto the galloping leg in the final furlong. Amazing Grace did not produce the patented acceleration and Quasar`s win loomed large as Be Safe had lot of ground to make. Be Safe finished powerfully but fell short by a neck. Amazing Grace finished third ahead of Alaindair.
There appeared to be only one change to the script. Instead of Be Safe as the winner, we had stablemate Quasar as the hero. The Invitation Cup has been run thrice as weight for age without penalties. Four year olds get four kgs from older horses and this perhaps is too much of a weight to concede. If the inter generation race were to serve the purpose intended, there is urgent need to readjust the weights failing which the dice will always be loaded in favour of the four year olds. The race should become a race without penalties in order to make this race a truly competitive one.