Following a delay of a week to settle an industrial dispute, India's Kingfisher Derby was finally run on Sunday at the Bangalore Turf Club in front of a record packed crowd of over 22,000 racegoers. The race is relatively recent on the Indian calendar, having been run for the first time as recently as 1988.
Strangely, all 17 runners contesting the race were running over the mile and a quarter distance for the first time. Speed was the key to the outcome in several ways. First, ante post favourite Speed Six was withdrawn on veterinary advice, having been found to be trotting up lame due to an inflamed cannon. The race itself was won by third favourite Pronto Pronto at 6/1, with Severstahl just a neck down in second place. Pronto Pronto was settled at the back of the field, having been dropped in from his wide draw. He was able to wear down his rival, partly helped when Severstahl's jockey, Imran Khan, dropped his whip inside the final furlong, and was unable to ride out strongly enough to win with hands and heels. Pronto Pronto has now won India's two most prestigious championship races for 3 year old colts.
British jockeys Mark Dwyer and Chris Hayes, who had been scheduled to ride on the original date, were unable to do so, but former Irish jockey MA Gallagher, who is now based in Singapore did ride Star Marquess into fifth place. In doing so he achieved rather more than on his one foray to the Epsom Derby, where in 2007 he partnered outsider Leander, finishing well down the field.
Trainer Imtiaz Sait had won every big race in the country barring this one. This win could not have come at a better time as the trainer was going through a lean patch for the last few years. The veteran trainer was delighted by the performance of Pronto Pronto and said, "I was confident that Pronto Pronto would win. The only worry was the draw but jockey Srinath handled the situation admirably.This win gave me the elusive Bangalore Derby. Winning the Derby in my home town gave me an additional thrill," he added.