It's anybody's game in Winter Derby

Isn't She Lovely, to be ridden by David Allan and trained by S Padmanabhan, emerges as the marginal favourite in the Catalyst Properties Bangalore Derby, the feature event of Saturday's race at Bangalore Turf Club.

In what can be called the quintessential "neutrals' dream and punters' nightmare", the Bangalore Winter Derby wears an extremely open look with as many as seven horses capable of landing the spoils here on Saturday.

A marginal favourite returning from injury, three Classic winners arriving with decent form, just one horse having the experience of running the challenging 2400-metre distance -- the Catalyst Properties Bangalore Derby has all the trappings of a humdinger.

In such an immensely competitive 13-horse field, Isn't She Lovely got the tipping at 2-3/4 during the post position draw at the Bangalore Turf Club on Thursday.

The major reason behind Isn't She Lovely being installed favourite -- despite the filly suffering internal bleeding during the Spartan Poker Indian 1000 Guineas in Mumbai early last month and not having raced after that -- is because of her bloodline.

Born To Excellent Art (sire) and In The Spotlight, Isn't She Lovely has got an enviable lineage. In 2012, In The Spotlight powered to smashing victories in Indian Turf Invitation Cup and Indian Derby and was nearly unbeatable during her heydays. 

Trainer S Padmanabhan, who will reach a milestone of 100 classic wins if Isn't She Lovely (David Allan astride) triumphs on Saturday, summed up his filly perfectly. "She's a class infusion of speed and stamina. Both her parents were exceptional runners and Born To Excellent has sired many winners. Isn't She Lovely looks good and it should be a fascinating race to watch."

The big problem though is her health but Padmanabhan downplayed it. "She's been treated for international bleeding and has recovered well. There are no concerns there. 90 percent of the horses have internal bleeding and it's not new."

Late entrant The Invader, to be ridden by P Trevor, and Mea Culpa (Neeraj Rawal up) are tipped to claim the big bounty in Rs 1.52 crore prize money event.

The Invader, who gave trainer G Nityanand his maiden classic win after triumphing in the Bangalore 2000 Guineas last month, has form with him. The worry in The Invader's case is that he hails from a family of sprinters but Nityanand was optimistic.

"His father was a sprinter but the mother is a stayer. His half-brother Gestapo did well in the Indian Derby a few years ago. The Invader has got staying power and I'm really looking forward to Saturday," said Nityanand.

Mea Culpa, trained by Arjun Mangalorkar, is the only horse that has the experience of running the 12-furlong distance. While winning 1600-metre races is one thing, 2400M is whole different ball game and this is what gives Mea Culpa, who won the Bangalore Oaks, the edge. The filly has the ammunition to replicate the feat on Republic Day.

Not far back behind is the quartet of New Moon, Mr Handsome, Knotty Ash and Kennedy. If anyone of them gets a good run on the day or respective jockeys come up with interesting tactics, then an exhilarating finish is definitely on the cards.

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It's anybody's game in Winter Derby

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