Saddle Up, the all Asian champion
- Sharan Kumar

The Kunigal Stud Farm has many outstanding achievements to its credit ever since the historic stud farm came under the wings of beer baron
Dr. Vijay Mallya a decade ago. The stud farm made a turnaround by breeding many a champion and has the distinction of producing India’s best ever horse Saddle Up who got Indian racing recognition worldwide by his deeds in Malaysia and Singapore. The rangy horse from the Kunigal Stud Farm was an outstanding performer and swept everything in India before being sent to Malaysia and Singapore when he was a six years old.
   
Considering his sensational performance as a six and seven year old when most champions in India would have retired from active racing, it is inconceivable what he could have achieved had he been sent at the peak of his career. In the words of Mrs Virginia Hopwood, Editor of European Bloodstock News: ``Saddle Up got Indian bloodstock worldwide recognition and boosted the profile of Indian racing.’’

Saddle Up (by Bold Russian out of Queen’s Rule (Riyahi) belied his looks. Nobody nursed high hopes on him as a juvenile till he made a sensational debut over a mile, swamping the opposition in breath-taking fashion. Immediately, he was hailed as something special. He confirmed that impression with yet another smashing win. He did not perform well in the Pune Derby as India’s champion jockey Pesi Shroff was off color and gave an uncharacteristic ride. Sent to Bangalore as owner-mate Continual was in Mumbai to take care of the Indian classics, Saddle Up won the Gr 2 Bangalore 2000 Guineas and the Gr 1 Bangalore Derby with effortless ease. With Continual breaking down, Saddle Up was rushed to Mumbai and raced in the Gr 1 McDowell Indian Derby with a just week to recover from the rigors of the Derby race at Bangalore and the arduous travel by road. The son of Bold Russian overcame all the disadvantages like a true champion and made mincemeat of the opposition by sailing away in glorious fashion. Unfortunately, Saddle Up was disqualified as he was tested positive for a painkiller in controversial circumstances. Saddle Up thereafter won several graded races before being sent for his conquest abroad. In all, Saddle Up won 10 races in India, including the Bangalore 2,000 Guineas (Group 2) at three and the Bangalore Derby (2,400m) and the Indian St Leger (2,800m), both Group 1 events, at four.

The six-year-old became the first Indian bred horse to capture a classic in the Malaysian circuit when he beat ten rivals to win the Class 1, 2,000m event. Saddle Up was a first-up winner at Penang before the win in the Tinku gold Cup. Partnered by champion jockey J Saimee, Saddle Up recorded a historic win in the RM500,000 Tunku Gold Cup at Sungei Besi. Saddle Up overcame the challenge of Innocent (Azhar Ismail) to win by half-a-length.

Prior to this race, Innocent had recorded a hat-trick of wins. Saddle Up then went on to win three races at Singapore and ran a very impressive third to Qutub in the Gr 1 Singapore Airlines Cup against a quality international competition.

A niggling injury to his joints saw Saddle Up being euthanased at the age of seven but in his brief but exciting career, he had done Indian racing a great service by his deeds on the track. Saddle Up was the highest rated horse in Singapore with an international rating of 114 and rated 121 by Timeform. Saddle Up was crowned the All Asian Champion (outside Japan) and won 14 races, earning stake money of Rs 40 million.