Fantabulous King, a Derby hero
- Sharan Kumar

Fantabulous King gave a big boost to first season sire Burden of Proof by winning the prestigious Gr 1 Kingfisher Bangalore Derby. A series of problems prevented the talented gelding from realizing his potential but within the short span that his racing career lasted, he had proved to be a tough individual. Despite a wind problem, he won the Kingfisher Derby and recovered significantly from a double tie-back surgery to win in the highest class in tremendous fashion. A tendon injury cut short his career and he
has since been retired to the Kunigal Stud Farm to enjoy the rest of his life, savoring his glorious achievements on the track. Sold as a yearling to enthusiastic owner Ramanuja Reddy, Fantabulous King won his debut over six furlongs in the manner of a top class juvenile. The three-year old gelding was bought back by Dr Vijay Mallya in partnership with Sunil Jhangiani and immediately won the seven furlong terms in a manner which at once marked him out as an extraordinary specimen. The blinding speed which was his hall mark, held everybody in awe.

Sent to Mumbai to compete in the Gr 1 Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million, the Sardar Singh trained Fantabulous King grabbed everyone’s attention by blazing the track. Unfortunately, he did not justify the favouritism by running poorly, going too fast from the word `go’ and expending all his energies by refusing to settle. However, Fantabulous King bounced back and showed that not all was lost by winning the Gr 2 Karnataka Cup in adverse conditions, rendered heavy by the relentless rain during the Bangalore Summer Season. He beat a qualify field that included a subsequent Derby winner in Full Speed.

The dominant trait of Fantabulous King was that he always wanted to outdo himself and tear away from the rest no matter what the distance was. Jockey Pesi Shroff had problems in trying to settle him in the Gr 1 Colts Trial Stakes and in doing so; Fantabulous King was a spent force when the race took a serious turn as he had fought his battle more with the jockey than with his opponents! Critics wrote him off for the Derby though there was quite optimism in people connected with him including his pilot jockey Pesi Shroff who was destined to enjoy his last Derby success in the saddle before taking up his new avocation as a trainer.

The connections had decided to let Fantabulous King run the way he loved to by not restraining him. Considering the fact that he had packed up over a trip of a mile, not many took the trouble of chasing him when Pesi Shroff had him racing ahead of the field so much so that by the time the runners took the final bend, he had a big lead. Despite veering out of a straight course, Fantabulous King had enough reserves to pull it off to provide first season sire Burden of Proof a great start to his career at the stud farm. Dr. Vijay Mallya could not have asked for a better show from the produce of his stud farm as the three-year old made his occasional presence at the race courses a rewarding one.

Pesi Shroff had always maintained that Fantabulous King was a ``choker’’ under pressure. Subsequent to his victory in the Derby, Fantabulous King was taken to Chennai for a treadmill test where a visiting Swiss specialist along with Dr. Kartikeyan and Dr. Hasneyn Mirza assessed the horse’s condition. It was decided by the team that Fantabulous King did not need an operation immediately and that it would be better to keep him in racing till such time the problem became more acute.

Fantabulous King, who missed quite a bit of work due to the treatment for an infection, was raced over nine furlongs at Mysore as a lead up race for the Poonawalla Mysore Derby but he flopped miserably. Thereafter, Fantabulous King was done a double tie-back operation by Dr. Mirza at the Kehelan Stud Farm. Fantabulous King thus was laid low and missed all the important action in winter. However, he bounced back to win a race for horses rated 40 and above, with a spirited performance. Just as the race goers were expecting more from him, he had an injury to the tendon which hastened his retirement.

But in his short racing career, Fantabulous King had done a great service to his sire Burden of Proof who had the distinction of siring two Derby winners and a host of classic performers from his first crop though one could not help regretting what he could have achieved without all his problems. His blinding speed, class and his Derby win are something that one cannot forget in a hurry.