After Song Dynasty finished second in the Indian Oaks horse race last month, the four-year-old filly wasn’t happy. She wasn’t the normal “quiet lamb” who went up to her trainer to be stroked. She was irritable and anxious.
Her trainer, Zadmal Singh, had to calm her down by talking to her and telling her that these things happen in life and there is always a next time.
“When they win a race, they know it. This happened because she got beat,” Zadmal told Firstpost. “She was upset. And you can see that in the horse. You have a close interaction with the horse day in and day out, you can see its habits and temperament and what they are trying to say.”
Song Dynasty is one of only two fillies running in the Indian Derby on 3 February. It was her second place finish in the Oaks – a race that is the same distance at the Derby – that convinced Zadmal to enter her in India’s biggest horse race.
The Oaks was held in January, making it a tight squeeze to get Song Dynasty ready for the Derby but Zadmal believes that a good horse doesn’t need much training. “Just have to keep them fit, well and happy. That’s it.”
Song Dynasty had struggled during the summer racing in Pune and there was concern she had a respiratory infection, but once she moved to Mumbai, she was fine. “In retrospect, I realise the weather was not suiting her. She came to Bombay and her respiration changed and she became more normal and she has not looked back.”
Zadmal, who has been a full fledged since describes Song Dynasty as a “very honest, very genuine filly with a great temperament”. He claims that a relaxed horse is a sign of a good horse. Those horses that are hyper or prone to excitement can often undermine themselves on the big day. “I wouldn’t say make and shape is a great requirement [for a Derby contender]. Good temperament and a good engine. That’s it.”
Seventeen horses will line up at the starting gate at the Royal Western India Turf Club tomorrow and experts say that the 2013 Derby is wide open. Zadmal believes there are three or four horses that should be there at finish: Acquired Taste. Song Dynasty. Machiavellism and Shivalik Hero.
Vital Deshmukh is Machiavellism’s trainer and has been having a stellar year. He has already won four big races around the country, but the success is tempered by the loss of his owner, D Pratap Chandra Reddy, who died earlier this season. “One day before he [died], he told me this year you will be on top of the world. I wish he was there to lead in all the horses,” Deshmukh said.
Unlike Zadmal, Deshmukh believes that a horse’s temperament lies in the hands of his or her trainer and jockey. “As long as you have a good horse who can gallop, at the end of the day, it is the animal who makes the jockey and the trainer.”
Deshmukh reckons the one horse he needs to beat is Windstream (“I think other horses I should be able to handle”).
Machiavellianism has won 6 out the 13 races he has entered so far and won the Indian 2000 Guineas (Grade 1). He is Deshmukh’s first runner in the Indian Derby and the Hyderbad-based trainer believes the horse is going from strength to strength.
Deshmukh has had a tortured history in other Derbies around the country, finishing second 13 times before winning his first Derby last year. “Hopefully, my jinx over the Derby is over and I hope to win more races” he said.