The 2014 renewal of the McDowell Signature Indian Derby promised that it would be a contest of very high quality. Multiple classic winners, close to ten grade one races between the top contenders, a field of fifteen and no surprise therefore that over 25,000 people came through the turnstiles at Mahalaxmi race course to see a champion crowned. This was a race that promised to be one of the best in years and, not one person on ground went home disappointed.
At the pre-race post position draw on Thursday night, Dr. Neville Devlaliwala, mentioned that his horse, Alaindair's run in the Deltin Casinos Indian 2000 Guineas was a mere aberration. After all, the Kingfisher Derby and Colts' Trial winner had been decisively beaten by Murioi in the Guineas despite the fact that he had been given a very aggressive ride then. Add to the fact that the multiple classic winner, Jeremiah was in the field, and somehow Alaindair's ?exploits had almost been sidelined in light of those by these two giants.
The early pace was quick and true, one that would suit the best of stayers on the testing Mahalaxmi straight at the fag end of the race. Isn't She Special, the winner of the Indian Oaks stuck to her game plan from that victory and was the one who led them down the back stretch. With Archie from Pesi Shroff's stable taking close order, the others that sat up near the pace included Jeremiah who closed as the second favourite at start time.
The favourite, Murioi was tracking the leading group just off the pace, with Alaindair and Srinath further behind, keeping an eye on him. Starry Eyes who had yet to find her best, was even further back with Richard Hughes on Circle of Life sitting last of all.
As the field started their final swing in to the home stretch, Jeremiah looked to be the first of the top contenders beat, probably reaching the end of his range at a mile and a quarter. Murioi travelled sweetly near the front and Chris Hayes, sensing the moment, pushed the button. On cue, the son of Dubawi re?sponded and a massive roar went up from the stands as the favourite hit the front.
Later on, at the presentation ceremony, Srinath recounted this moment. "When I saw Chris go, I knew he'd gone to soon and that I'd get him," he said. Srinath had been correct and his decision to play the cat in this game proved to be conclusive. Alaindair appeared alongside Murioi in the last furlong, menacingly and full of running even as Murioi began to fade.
The winning margin of two and half lengths wasn't half as impressive as the fact that Alaindair broke the track record and provided a first of many for many.
It was a first Indian Derby for Neville Devlaliwala, Gaurav Sethi, Srinath, Altamash Ahmed and the stallion, Multidimensional. In fact, with Starry Eyes finishing second, it gave Multidimensional a one-two result, also a first for a freshman sire. For Ameeta Mehra and Usha Stud, it is just what they hoped for in successor to Razeen.
To conclude the story, Murioi finally finished fourth with Jeremiah further behind. The two giants had been slain on the first Sunday of February by another who now stands tall and, above all others in the land.
Article by - Mohit Lalvani