Padmanabhan eyes another shot at glory

Racing Invitation Cup

Padmanabhan eyes  another shot at glory
The creme de la creme of Indian racing fraternity will be descending in the city this weekend for two days of heavy duty competition and fanfare. Classic winners, derby champions and legends will be vying to further enhance their aura.

One trainer on whom some extra spotlight will be cast is S Padmanabhan. A five-time Indian Turf Invitation Cup winner, Padmanabhan will be leading in pre-race favourite Hall Of Famer on Sunday. Set to be ridden by Englishman David Allan, who powered the four-year old filly to wins in the Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby last month and in the Calcutta Derby Stakes in January, Hall Of Famer will be gunning for a rare hat-trick.

Padmanabhan, having seen it all in more than three decades as a trainer, appeared calm and composed ahead of the big day. Paddy, as he’s affectionately called in the paddock area, felt it’s always better to be in the spotlight than being the dark horse.

“If you are Virat Kohli, spotlight will be on you every time you come to bat,” said Padmanabham, who played cricket as a youngster. “It’s good to be in spotlight than to be oblivious. Our horses have been performing consistently. From 1999 to 2017, we have won five times. It’s a 33 percent success ratio which is a remarkable performance. We are fortunate to have owners giving us good horses which makes things happen easily. It’s a very successful operation.

“The most difficult race to win in India is the Invitation Cup because the horses have run 5-6 times between November and March. It revolves around every centre and you don’t have a home advantage. If you take Hall Of Famer, though she is based in Bengaluru, she has travelled to other centres and put in a lot of mileage. Between October 24 and now, she has travelled 9470 kilometres on road. She, however, has taken the fatigue in her stride. She's a big filly, she comes from a very good stud farm in North India. Immaterial of whether she wins on Sunday or not, she’s a very special horse,” added Padmanabhan, known to work wonders with fillies.

Four short of a century of classic wins, Padmanabhan, who hails from a non-racing background and took up the sport for the love of it, felt the will to succeed is what has kept him going. “You ask Virat Kohli what is his X-factor, he will just say he likes to bat. Where we are able to score over other horses is in ability and merit. I train them well physically and mentally. I teach them the will to win which is most important for any athlete. They need to have that will to go past the rest.”

Padmanbhan also heaped praise on jockey Allan, saying working with him makes things easier for him. “He has integrated well with the team. This is the eighth year he’s coming back in the winter. He has consistently won classics for me every year. He’s a very straightforward and consistent jockey. I’ve had some world class jockeys riding for me at various points in time, like Richard Hughes, Martin Dwyer etc. He’s as good as anyone of them. There are races where he has lost but even then he has done the basics right.”

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