The Gr 2 Maharaja`s Cup, a terms race over 2200 metres, was expected to be a summit clash between Be Safe and Quasar but it turned out to be an anti-climax. Quasar battled hard to maintain his supremacy not over Be Safe but against Amazing Grace. Be Safe gave a shockingly poor performance much to the disappointment of scores of people who had come to witness the clash on Sunday in the belief that Be Safe will reign supreme. The victory of Quasar was not exactly a surprise given the fact that he had shown significant improvement since winning the Invitation Cup in controversial circumstances but what came as a shock was the abject surrender of Be Safe, hailed as a wonder horse.
The products of Hazara Stud Farm, Be Safe and Quasar had built up an imposing reputation which resulted in a huge attendance at the race course. When Be Safe came to the paddock, the ovation that he got was something that no horse in Indian history had received. Be Safe looked vulnerable as the spark that one associated with the champion horse even in terms of appearance was missing. Quasar showed out in the paddock parade. Amazing Grace who had run below par in the Invitation Cup after a setback in training looked outstanding and gave every indication that she would be a force to reckon with. But the blind supporters of Be Safe simply expected the champion to steamroll the opposition which was indicated in punters backing big amounts even at cramped odds while Quasar was at more than 5 to 1. When Be Safe was lost in the crowd in the straight and finished a poor fourth, there was a stunned silence. In normal circumstances, the champion would have received a standing ovation but in this instance, there were more people grieving the defeat of the champion rather than applaud the new Maharaja in every sense of the term.
Del Santo who was the assigned pace maker took a while before he could surge ahead but his pace making had no desired effect as he could not sustain himself in front at a good clip and packed up midway through the race. Ademaro raced in second position ahead of Agostini, Quasar, Toroloco, Be Safe and Amazing Grace. Approaching the final bend, Agostini moved up along with Quasar while Be Safe seemed to be going nowhere.
Quasar surged ahead of Agostini inside the final 300 metres while people were searching for Be Safe. The champion was nowhere to be sighted. Jockey Trevor Patel perhaps made an error of judgment in waiting with Amazing Grace longer than required as his intention appeared to be to chase Be Safe into the straight. Be Safe ducked in under pressure and began to plod even as Quasar strode out majestically in front and had a winning lead by the time Amazing Grace was set alight. Though the champion filly covered plenty of ground, the winning post came to the rescue of Quasar who spared a long neck at the finish. Agostini was third another 3 ¾ lengths behind while Be Safe was a disappointing fourth, finishing nearly nine lengths from the winner.
Trainer Malesh Narredu has done a wonderful job of keeping Quasar in top shape and deserves compliment for his achievement. And young jockey Yash Narredu also displayed admirable temperament and delivered the goods under pressure to herald his arrival a jockey of immense potential. Given the fact that he is always assured of help from the famed stable of jockeys hailing from his family and the good rides that he is bound to get, Yash is sure to climb the ladder of excellence.
Long after the dust had settled on the race course, people were still discussing the defeat of Be Safe. The questions that were being asked were: What went wrong with Be Safe? Why did it fail so miserably? Did it suffer from any infirmity? In normal circumstances, a beaten horse would not have attracted so much attention but because race goers were not reconciled to Be Safe`s dismal performance that they kept wondering what could have gone wrong with the champion. Perhaps this is the reason why the kind of adulation that Quasar and the connections should have got was missing.
Several champions who looked invincible have lost in the past. The Maharaja`s Cup has often proved to be the graveyard of champions as the terms of the race generally tends to favour those classic placed horses which enjoy pull in weights. Amazing Grace was well favoured by the terms of the race and history would have repeated itself if Trevor Patel had been sharper in his response. Amazing Grace seems to have regained her zest as evidenced by this performance. She should win her next target, the Governor`s Cup which is two weeks from now.
Be Safe was scoped after the race and was found to have suffered EIPH bleeding. It was classified as Grade 1 which means that there were traces of blood in the lungs which is nothing of significance. It was also reported that Be Safe had an infection which could be the reason why he performed below par. The fact that Be Safe was working like a ``rocket`` as many described his workouts could also have been his undoing. It is difficult to explain why Be Safe ran poorly and it will remain a puzzle forever. Form fluctuations haven`t been uncommon for horses sporting the gold and brown colours. Strangely, Be Safe has let down sea of expectations thrice in his career which is otherwise marked by excellence. Be Safe`s defeat dwarfed Quasar`s magnitude of achievement. The winner takes it all but in this instance, the vanquished was discussed much more than the winner! But this is so when it concerns the super stars of any sport.