For track experts, this final workout is an indicator of things to come. Early on Thursday morning, as the contenders for the Rs 2.25 crore McDowell Signature Indian Derby went through their paces, it was not just curious joggers at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai who watched with interest.
Three days before Sunday’s big race, a premium event in the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) calendar, the horses went through one final run of the course, many of them in full clip, some in a slower gallop, watched by anxious trainers and owners. Their rhythm, gait and speed are indicators of how they may shape up for the Sunday race, which sees the country’s best runners.
The Indian Derby is meant for four-year-old horses and is run over 2,400m. Unlike last year, when the all-conquering Jacqueline was an overwhelming favourite, the 12-horse field is more open this year with Ocean and Beyond, and Moonlight Romance being tipped as having a better chance.
The Thursday track sprint is usually judged over distances of 600m, 800m and 1,000m. A timing of 36-37 seconds over 600m is considered a good indicator of form. Ocean and Beyond, for instance, took 38 seconds over the last 600m. Macchupicchu, considered an outside favourite and a dark horse, did it in 37 seconds.
The horses usually rest two days before the race, barring minor limbering routines, conserving their energies for the big race—the only chance they get to win the Derby.
Photographs by Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Sucheta Das’ photo essay on children in the beedi industry in West Bengal will be carried on a later date.
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