Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Golden sweep of Hazara Stud Farm continues

Any stud farm which has begun its breeding operations on a massive scale cannot ask for better results than the one obtained by Haryana based Hazara Stud Farm whose produce has virtually swept every big race in the country in an unprecedented golden run since last year. Owned by racing enthusiast Nirmal Singh, the stud farm named after his late father Hazara Singh, has set Indian racing on fire. The stud farm has produced in the last one year the winners of Bangalore Derby, Indian Derby, Golconda Derby, Calcutta Derby and the winner of India’s juvenile race, the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multi-Million in Murioi. With Toroloco standing tall amongst the contenders of this Sunday’s Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Hazara Stud Farm’s resident stallion Rebuttal could add another feather to his distinguished cap. Last year’s Kolkata sensation Dandified is also make a bid for the coveted cup. Originally operating as a small set up at Ambala, Nirmal Singh expanded the scale of operations by setting up the yearling station at Belgad which on three sides is surrounded by forests and one side by the Yamuna River. The land is fertile and the environment conducive for breeding top class horses. Space is not a constraint as each of the paddocks is more than about 20 acres which enables the weanlings and yearlings enough space to run about and grow as robust specimens. The stud farm also has committed staff and they also break in the yearlings and by the time they enter the race track, they require very little time to get race fit. Since the preliminary training has already been imparted, the yearlings from this stud farm are not raw like most purchases from other stud farms. The excellent environment under which the horses grow into stronger specimens from weanlings is also the single most important factor that has helped the stud farm to make a big splash on the Indian racing scene. High achievers spot rich opportunities swiftly, make big decisions quickly and move into action immediately. Follow these principles and you can make your dreams come true goes a saying. Nirmal Singh was quick to spot opportunities as he bought in a big manner pregnant mares from Goff’s and also from Keeneland, Tattersall and Arquana sales to upgrade the breeding stock. This helped the horses bred at the stud farm to make a big splash in a short span of time. Though every stud farm in India buys pregnant mares abroad every year, one can safely say that Nirmal Singh has been pretty lucky in this regard. While Red Baron, Tintinnabulation, Machiavellianism, Murioi et al are products of such purchases, his resident stallion Rebuttal (Mr Greeley) has proved to be an outstanding sire, belying expectations of his progeny being not capable of tackling trips beyond a mile. Dandified, Toroloco and Super Storm today stand testimony to the value of their sire Rebuttal. Super Storm won the Indian Derby over 12 furlongs while last year’s Bangalore Derby winner Toroloco has proved to be an outstanding stayer. In short, the stud farm has been able to produce solid performers who are capable of taking the hard grind of continuous racing over varying trips. The stud farm has another ace up its sleeve in its new stallion Dancing Forever (Rahy) whose first crop will be beginning their racing career sometime in November later this year. ``I have high hopes on the produce of Dancing Forever and it is my belief that they are even better than that of Rebuttal,’’ says Nirmal Singh with an air of confidence. ``I am planning to import one more stallion to further strengthen my breeding operation,’’ he added. Given the infrastructure that the stud farm has with over 400 acres of fertile land, Hazara Stud Farm has no problem with the space even if the crop size were to double in the coming years. The Hazara Stud Farm success is built on sound foundation. The stud farm has enjoyed classic success with got abroad horses and also home bred horses which is what makes the future of the stud farm safe. Importantly for the stud farm, there has been tremendous pedigree upgrade in the form of the previous progeny of the mares picking up big races after they have been sold to the stud farm. Sun Shower was the dam of Europe’s second best horse of last year Excelebration in the year of the great Frankel and the mare was bought back for a big price by Ireland’s biggest stud farm Coolmore. Goffs has been a happy hunting ground for Nirmal Singh where mares picked up at modest prices have turned out be money spinners after coming to India. The Hazara Stud Farm has made a big splash on the Indian racing within a short span of it expanding its scale of operations. The stud farm has also had the unique record of first four finishers of the Indian 2000 Guineas being its products. Success is the consequence of applying basic fundamentals and given the strong fundamentals that guide the running of the farm, Hazara Stud Farm should be a stud farm to reckon with for years to come. Achievement comes when pursuing a goal with dedication and commitment. Nirmal Singh can be proud of the fact that his hard work and vision have paid off.

Invitation Cup 2013 should be a trendsetter


After several years of debate and resistance, the Gr 1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup has finally been thrown open to four year olds and over. The Invitation Cup race has always been one of the premier events of Indian racing calendar and enjoyed the pride of place though often it ended up as a repeat running of the Indian Derby. After 50 years, the Turf Authorities of India have finally decided to make it a weight for age without penalties race. We should not judge whether the decision is right or wrong by the running of this year’s ace alone. The race is sure to evolve over the next few years. The turf authorities also could try and promote this event in a bigger way by making the stake money even more attractive so there is temptation to keep the champions of previous year in racing. A top class performing filly is usual retired at the end of the Invitation Cup or campaigned abroad in the hope of greater glory. The other thing that the turf authorities of India could do is to allow international horses to compete in this race to boost the level of competition and to increase the value of this race in every aspect. We have often heard the statement that this year’s crop is inferior to the previous years. This statement is being made year after year giving one the belief that we are deteriorating in our standards! It is not so. Horses are attaining their physical maturity over a period of time. Unlike in the past when conditions were different and possibly due to widespread use of medication, horses outperformed their physical maturity. Since there are greater restrictions in place and possibly may the reason why one gets this feeling that the previous year’s horses were superior. We have heard this statement even in the year when the great Jacqueline and Becket raced. The same was repeated when In The Spotlight, Smashing and Toroloco raced. Internationally, horses make their debut as two year olds as early as April but in India, we have races for two year olds from November onwards. The RWITC has been conducting races for juveniles in the month of October for the last couple of years though the response hasn’t been great. In Bangalore two year olds races are held from December onwards only and we rarely see division of races meant for juveniles. The races for juveniles pick up momentum only during the summer months. We have set a new trend of having races meant for three year old maidens at a time when they are about turn into four years of age! There are several reasons for the retarded growth of these horses. For one, they reach the stables of trainers very late and they come as raw products. In Bangalore, the stabling problem and the need to accommodate outstation horses to participate in the summer season had resulted in two year olds coming in as late as August and hence their progress was compromised. However, this year things have changed slightly with about 50 per cent of total number of two year olds that would be accommodated in Bangalore being allowed to enter now. Still is not a happy situation. The stud farms haven’t helped matters because they don’t break in the two year olds. Only a few stud farms like Hazara Stud Farm and Kunigal Stud Farm have the two year olds go through their pace and even have exposure to the gate as well. As such, we have seen the two year olds races are dominated by the produce of these stud farms. The other stud farms also have facility of a training track but the juveniles are rarely put in training for fear of any setback before the sale. The time has come for the stud farms to set up training facilities, have their yearlings start their training programme and get them ready to race by the time they reach the stables of the trainers. This way we can ensure that two year olds make their debut early and don’t have wait for November or beyond. Their racing career also thus becomes an extended one. Horses are meant to run and to be stabled all the time. We have seen horses make their debut as late as five and more than 50 per cent of them will turn into four or five without winning a single race. The Invitation Cup will see older and younger horses race together for the first time. However, they will not be competing at level weights as is the case with races of this nature internationally. The four year olds will enjoy a pull of four kgs in the Invitation Cup. The difference of weights between older and younger horses in the other invitational races is different. It is 2.5 kgs in Sprinters Cup, 3 kgs in Super Mile and 5 kgs in the Stayers Cup. It is believed that one kg of weight will make a difference of a length among horses of equal merit over trips beyond a mile. With In the Spotlight being campaigned at Dubai and Smashing rendered hors de combat, Toroloco who was the best of his generation is sure to enjoy a clear advantage for the simple reason that the four year olds, though not lacking in talent, may take a while before reach their best level of performance achievable through their physical maturity. The Dubai World Cup has seen horses which would have placed in the previous year coming back and winning next time out. This may well become the trend in the Invitation Cup as well. The two day racing at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club premises on Saturday and Sunday promises plenty of exciting action. The turf club which was struggling a decade ago has turned the corner and has done a fantastic job in the last few years. The heritage structure has been given a face left and the club has been able to attract race goers back to the race course with the average attendance, according to Robin Corner, the man at the helm of racing matters, putting it at 5000.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Joseph O’Brien is a super star in the making

Epsom Derby winning jockey Joseph O’Brien comes across as a young lad with his priorities firmly in place. Joseph arrived in India in the wee hours of Thursday but he showed his commitment to the profession by turning up for morning track work and was astride several horses.
Irish jockey Joseph O’Brien, Kieran Murphy, RWITC Chairman K N Dhunjibhoy, Adi Narielwalla and trainer Pesi Shroff at the Mahalaxmi race course paddock.
Later in the day he gave a peach of a ride to Pesi Shroff trained Shahenshah which he lost by a neck. Despite this being his first ride in India and in a crowded field, he nursed his horse brilliantly from the wide outside draw. He was beautifully balanced and in the final furlong when Shahenshah seemed to have shot his bolt, he goaded the horse to produce that bit extra before the horse lost in the final strides of the race being ring rusty. Surely his presence enlivened an otherwise drab day’s races. The interest in Joseph is not because he is the son of Ireland’s most powerful trainer Aidan O’Brien and he rides for the one of the biggest owners in the world. The boyish looking jockey is a draw not only because of these factors but also because of the fact that he is the super star in the making and racing indeed needs such talented people to boost its image. For someone so well placed in life, the temptation would be to take things easy rather than to take up the hard grind of being a professional jockey with its attendant pressures and risks but the 19-year old Joseph seems to be excelling in the high pressure job. Pesi Shroff was considered as being too tall for a jockey but when Joseph stood next to him in the paddock, he was completely dwarfed! Joseph stands tall like a basketball player and he is six- footer. Possibly he is the tallest jockey in racing history. He could become one for his achievements as well if the problem with weight does not curtail his career. Does he consider his height to be a disadvantage? ``Being short has many advantages in that it helps to maintain weight at an acceptable level. For a jockey height is not an issue as long legs help in better control of the horses. The problem is more related to maintaining weight.’’ He is right because some of the best jockeys in the world like Lester Piggott and the current reigning British champion Richard Hughes are tall by any standard. ``I don’t foresee weight as a major issue for continuance as a jockey. I am sure that I will be around for a quite a few years. I can say I have targets set for the next five years at least,’’ he added. What was the experience like riding in India where jockeys take time to acclimatize given the fact that our horses are highly strung being confined to their stables most of the day and the jockeys rarely adhere to the virtues of lane discipline? ``It is tough but a jockey has to make the adjustments all the time as he rides in different environment all the time,’’ he said. ``I am riding Montezuma in the Indian 2000 Guineas. I have worked the horse and he gave me a good feel,’’ he added. Is this just a one off visit or he desires to come to ride in India again? ``I am looking forward to riding in India again, possibly in the Indian Derby if the opportunity and the situation warrants.’’ Joseph rode Camelot to a famous win in the Epsom Derby and Irish Derby. Camelot’s bid to win the coveted Triple Crown after Nijinsky achieved this feat way back in 1970 was undone by Encke who recoded an unexpected win. The Ballydoyle colt came up three quarters of a length short in second place behind the 25-1 outsider Encke. Camelot was thus denied a slice of history. It was another rising star, 21-year-old Mickael Barzalona, who stole the limelight on that day as he seized a decisive lead on Encke less than two furlongs from home. ``Camelot had a hard race in the Irish Derby under testing conditions where the going was soft. Perhaps that run had blunted him. He did not give the same response as he did in the Epsom Derby.’’ Surely Joseph is a jockey who thinks on his feet, all the time analysing what went wrong and what better he could do next time out. The demands for riding for a high pressure stable like his fathers could be unnerving even for the most seasoned jockey leave alone a young lad who is yet to step into his 20s. Joseph is a lad blessed with an ideal temperament to handle big race pressures. Among his famous wins which include success in Gr 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at USA, he rates his win in the Epsom Derby as the one he covets the most. It was also the first instance of a father-son combination winning the mega event. In his early days, Joseph won a bronze medal at the 2009 European Pony Eventing Championships. He rode his first winner on Johann Zoffany, trained by his father, at Leopards Town Racecourse in May 2009. He was Champion Apprentice Jockey in 2011 and Joint Champion Jockey in 2010. He has ridden 217 winners on the flat. In November 2011 at Churchill Downs, USA, Joseph was the youngest jockey’s ever to win a Breeders Cup World Championship race. It really takes likeable super stars to make the sport popular and Joseph surely belongs to this rare breed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wind Stream springs a surprise in Poonawalla Derby

The Usha Stud Farm bred Wind Stream came home with a splendid turn of foot and sailed past the tiring duo of Super Storm and Borsalino in the final moments of the race to win the Gr 1 Poonawalla Mysore Derby against the run of expectations on Sunday in front of a packed crowd. Jockey John who had the most rewarding day of his life with five winners to his credit got his act right in the Derby to drive the progeny of Steinbeck to a thrilling win. Borsalino who was bidding for a hat-trick of Derbys faltered at the jump and thereafter things never went right for the favourite. The winner was saddled by Tarun Thimmiah. Borsalino had won the Derby at Hyderabad in the beginning of the month in tough underfoot conditions. That race obviously was a hard one but since he appeared to have recovered well from that ordeal, trainer Padmanabhan was tempted to run him in the Mysore Derby within a short period as he had beaten his main adversary Super Storm by a big margin in the past. Borsalino was sweating profusely in the paddock parade and though he gave hopes till the final 100 metres, the spark in him was missing. May be the fatigue factor blunted his show apart from the fact that he splayed his shoe in the left fore leg. In what was perceived as a match race between Borsalino and Super Storm, Wind Stream, after his poor run in the Guineas was not considered to be a serious threat. While John could ride a relaxed race on Wind Stream, putting his horse to sleep in the rear and get his horse in full flow in the final furlong, jockey Suraj Narredu had to plan his move with his main threat Borsalino in front. In hindsight one may say that he went in chase of Borsalino earlier than he should have which caused Super Storm to slow down in the final stages of the race, the dilemma for Suraj was that he could not afford too much of a leeway for Borsalino as the experience during the Bangalore Derby had showed. It was a Catch 22 situation for the jockey. Borsalino was the odds on choice to win the Derby with Super Storm having his share of supporters. Maths Baby who was a final entry at a whopping amount in excess of 12 lakhs was the third best supported on the basis of his impressive show over nine furlongs. The problem with Maths Baby is that he lacks initial speed which makes his task difficult as he needs to cover significant leeway in the end. Wind Stream was completely ignored in the betting as he had disappointed after promising much with a win in the Mysore Million. Borsalino missed the step at the start and with Maths Baby coming in his path and jostling; the former was blocked for a clear run and fell behind. Courage In Red darted to the front from the wide outside draw to take over the running. Super Storm settled into second position followed by Simply Stylish, Unforgettable, Wind Stream, Maths Baby and Own Asset. David Allan perhaps panicked that he could not manoeuvre a forward position as he hastened his act and circled round the field to take over the running with about seven furlongs left in the race. Borsalino broke into a good lead with Super Storm in hot pursuit while Wind Stream was in the rear along with Maths Baby. Borsalino came into the straight a few lengths clear of a quickly improving Super Storm but the latter still had some leeway to cover. Wind Stream in the meanwhile was angled out and began to make rapid progress while the rest were losing pace. Borsalino battled on and it took a while for Super Storm to measure him which he did inside the final 100 metres. Just as his supporters for hailing him as a winner came Wind Stream with a powerful run on the wide outside, with John riding like one possessed. Wind Stream managed to overhaul Super Storm in the shadow of the post while Borsalino weakened to finish third. Maths Baby was a long way fourth followed by Unforgettable. The winner clocked a timing of two minutes 04.57 seconds which was much slower than the one clocked by last year’s winner Field Marshall which stands at two minutes 01.54 seconds. The going was good but with the track having taken a severe pounding with continuous racing, the top surface was loose at places and horses struggled to get a firm footing. Two progeny of Steinbeck have thus far won the Mysore Derby. M P Mahaesh trained Splendid Surprise was another progeny of Steinbeck to have won this prestigious race a few years back. This was the ninth year in succession that the Poonawalla Group was sponsoring this race. The winner took home record prize money of Rs 75 lakhs. The winner is owned by Rakesh Kumar Wadhawan and Waryam Singh representing Wadhawan Livestock Pvt Ltd.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The death of Aris David on Sunday (April 8) brings to an end a glorious innings which was marked by incredible feats. The unassuming David was the first trainer in the country to record a century of classics. The remarkable results that he obtained from his horses despite racing them practically in every centre in matter of days is something no present trainer would dare to attempt. In a career spanning about four decades, he won about 150 classics. Despite his glorious achievements he kept a low profile and carried his fame in a dignified way. He literally lived in the stables in a manner of speaking. Turf baron Dr MA M Ramaswamy rated Aris David as the very best. He should know because their association was legendary. Here is what Dr Ramaswamy had said about his association in an interview with Turfite magazine. The partnership had by then notched up close to 100 classics and 1000 winners. `` I treat Aris like a brother and friend and not like a professional hence there is perfect understanding between us, and I don’t think we have differed on matters of racing. He looks after my horses as though they were his personal property. He guides me in the purchase of horse-flesh but never objects to any purchases. Heis very dedicated and when I see a frown on his forehead I know at once thatsomething is wrong in the stable with one of the horses.`` Unfortunately, racing is such a sport that even such a wonderful association ended. ``It is Aris David who sacked me. I will not train with him again,’’ the big man had said after he broke up with the trainer the second time. By the time, Dr Ramaswamy entrusted horses to David, he hadwon three classics but when the Turf Baron completed 100 classics through Queenof the Hills in the Mysore 1000 Guineas September 3, 1983, he had contributed 84 of them. Several of his horses won at different centres in matter of days,the notable among them being Aristocrat who won the Deccan Derby on October 2 and four days later won the Mysore Derby in 1979. Aristocrat was an amazing traveller and he continued the streak of wins by winning the Golconda 2000 Guineas same year, a week later the South India 2000 Guineas and within less than a month won the South India Derby, travelled to Kolkata, won the Calcutta St Leger on March 19 and then travelled back to win Bangalore St Leger on March 29 in record timing. Cupid was another who ran in four Derbys in the matter of a month in 1976, starting with the win in Calcutta Derby (January 10) followed by the success in the South India Derby (January 15). Cupid next raced in Arc De Triomphe (now known as Bangalore winter Derby on January 26) where he finished third and then went to Mumbai for the Indian Derby (February1) placing fourth to Commanche. What David did with his horses is something modern day trainers don’t even think ispossible. David did this not with just one horse but practically with all his champions under his wing.
Own Opinion (Photo taken just before the departure of Own Opinion to Japan on 15th October, 1981 for taking part in Japan Cup in November 1981)
After he parted with Dr Ramaswamy for the second time in 1990, he sparked for a brief while for his other owners before fading into oblivion. The last few years of his life were not exactly cheerful as the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease afflicted him. The present day leading trainers Subbaiah Ganapathy and Kolkata’s champion trainer Vijay Singh worked as his assistants at different point of time.
Birthday Girl (Never Say Never or Fair World/Hari Hara Priya) being led in by joint owners Dr M A M Ramaswamy and Dr K T B Menon, after winning the South Derby Stakes. The horse was ridden by jockey J Lowe. Birthday Girl was winner of 9 classics including Nilgiris Derby, Mysore Derby and South India Oaks.
Aris hailed from a family of clergy men. He spent his early days at Calcutta and took to racing there. He became Mac Galstaun’s assistant in the early 1950’s. After completing his ‘apprenticeship’, he moved to Hyderabad with 30 horses as a private trainer to M.P. Davis. He led in his first winner in 1956. He trained Canny Scot which however won the Indian Derby under Baba Khan. Scone Stone (Pandu Khade astride) had created what looked like an invincible course record in 1958 over seven furlongs in Bangalore which stood for 50 years before Rhapsidion Snow broke the record in 2009. He parted with M.P. Davis towards the end of 1950’s and faced a hard grind till he began to train for MAM in 1967 which lasted till 1990. Every big foreign jockey who used to ride in India has ridden classics for him. W R Swinburn, Christy Roche, Terry McKeown, Johny Lowe, Willie Carson, Cope, Ray Still are the names that comereadily to the mind. All the top jockeys of yester year like Jagdish, Karan Singh, Vasant Shinde, Pesi Shroff, Marshall brothers, Aslam Kader, Robin Corner have won classics for him. Pesi Shroff rode Fond Hope to victory in Colts Trial Stakes in Bangalore. Ministrella won the Kingfisher Bangalore Derby under Robin Corner in toughest of conditions with the track battered by continuous rains. The Derby was postponed and held on Wednesday in treacherous underfoot conditions. Terry McKeown rode The Prodigy to victory in the South India St Leger inn February 8, 1976. Terry’s son James is currently working as Assistant Trainer to S Padmanabhan. Aris David trained his first classic for Ramaswamy through Fair Court, ridden by Wally Swinburn on December 21, 1969 and the last classic through Oxford Blue which won the South India Derby in 1990 on January 14 under Robin Corner. The classics in 70’s and 80’s were dominated by Aris David along with Rashid Byramji. Own Opinion was his first Indian Turf Invitation Cup winner and Own Beauty his second and last. The success of Own Opinion was brilliantly planned by the team and executed on the race track by the three jockeys where the race tactics had the young Karl Umrigar on Royal Tern in a dilemma. Sinclair Marshall on Philanderer led the field to upset the rhythm of free running Royal Tern. Red Chieftain took over the running at 1600 metres which had Umrigar in a dilemma whether to allow free run for Red Chieftain or go in chase of him or wait for Own Opinion who was tracking him. He chose to go after Red Chieftain and was beaten close home by Own Opinion (Jagidsh. The defeat of Royal Tern could be attributed to the pace of the race which tested his suspect stamina to the hilt. The 100 classics that David achieved had its own aura,unmatched for the sheer brilliance. Incidentally, Own Opinion is the only Indian horse to have been invited to race in Japan Cup and despite running left handed; the horse achieved the fastest timing of his career over a mile and half trip as a six-year old. David trained several champions in his illustrious career, Own Opinion and Red Chieftain were the easily the best among them. Fair Court, Star Haven, Half A Crown, Air Hostess, Republican, Cupid, The Prodigy, Red Stain, Response, Nicolette, Deep WaterBlues, Blue Ice, Star Asset, Birthday Girl, , Master Key, Maltese Prince, Queenof the Hills are among the champions that David trained. Red Chieftain won the Deccan Derby and Mysore Derby in the space of 13 days. Star Haven was one of those top horses which won all the five South India classics. Air Hostess had the unique distinction of dead-heating in two classics namely the Bangalore Fillies Stakes with Fire Haven and in South India Leger with Rock`s Son. Air Hostess had won the Bangalore Oaks despite a slipped saddle. She won the South India Oaks and four days later won the Bangalore Oaks. Birthday Girl was a multiple classic winning horse of his. Queen of the Hills provided the 100th classic success for Dr Ramaswamy at Mysore by winning the Mysore 1000 Guineas. David came across as a friendly person who was willing to share his knowledge with any youngster. I remember him telling me in my early days when I wrote an article on him: ``Follow professionals who win on a consistent basis. Otherwise, you may have to back 10 losers to get a winner. ‘’ He firmly believed that talent alone did not guarantee success. ``An ounce ofluck is a crucial ingredient for success,’’ he had said. He had a wry sense ofhumour. Former Chairman of Bangalore Turf Club P G Belliappa who used to be a newspaper columnist said that he had not seen a trainer who travelled his horses to different centres in matter of days and achieve incredible success at a time when transport was nowhere comparable with the present day. The Aris David – Dr Ramaswamy combination was a legendary partnership in Indian racing. Trainer Padmanabhan said Aris David was a good human being who carried his fame lightly. Dr Ramaswamy said that he had lost a dear friend in the passing away of Aris David. ``He was an excellent trainer, very knowledgeable and had a fantastic eye for horses. His judgment was impeccable. I am deeply saddened by his death. May god bless him.’’

Friday, March 16, 2012

Amazing five for Sharat Kumar

Trainer Sharat Kumar had the most rewarding day of his career when he saddled five winners including Magnitude Star who won the 1600 metres Ashwapriya Cup, a race for horses rated 80 and above, the feature event of Friday. His performance should be considered simply phenomenal considering the fact that the very same horses had not done anything noteworthy with their erstwhile trainers. Sharat has worked wonders with his horses that were seemingly worn out with body fatigue written all over them when they came under his wing. He has brought about amazing transformation in his horses putting the work of other trainers in perspective. By winning five races and losing the other by a whisker, Sharat hit a new high in his career. He has won nine races in two days of racing and has a firm grip of the trainers’ championship of the winter season. What is more creditable is the fact that he has contributed over 200 runners during the season and miraculously had the least number suffering lameness or bursting their blood vessel. Atlantus, Snow Tiger, Magnitude Star, Smooth Glider among others have done wonders for the trainer after coming to his stable. He has really put several senior trainers in the shade and his success can be attributed to the fact that he appears a 24 x 7 racing professional unlike many of his ilk who are happy with holding the license as a trainer. He may have brought the horses down in class but that excuse can be given if a hose wins one race during a season but the same does not hold water when they show amazing improvement after every effort. There are many trainers in Bangalore with bigger strings but have only excuses to offer for their lack of success. Trainers Rashid Byramji and Ganapathy had this kind of domination when their stables were filled with quantity and quality. Sharat has got this type of result with horses which were mostly discarded from other stables or had not given any indication that they would transform into money spinners. May be after his success with discarded horses, his colleagues may now become wary of selling horses to him for fear of getting exposed! Coming back to racing, Magnitude Star who had recoded a narrow win over Aztec Gold in his last outing was not supported with enthusiasm to win the feature event. Arabian Gold who had run impressively in the Golconda Derby was the favourite. Jockey Carlos Henrique had Magnitude Star take charge from the word `go’ and had the lesser fancied runner skip away from the rest after correcting the drift in the final furlong. Six Gun Smith ran on to finish a good second ahead of Café Del Monte who flattered to deceive. Arabian Gold made no show while Talk of the Town appeared ring rusty. The other highlight of the day apart from Sharat’s feat was that of jockey Suraj Narredu who too had five winners with four of them coming for the day’s successful trainer. Southern King, who had won twice, was once again backed with conviction to win the 1800 metres Chickmagalur Plate. Southern King circled round the field at the final bend, drifted in under the left handed whipping of Suraj Narredu and caused interference to Never Say Goodbye who was stuck behind the tiring Indravati and no where to go. Southern King went away for an easy win over Never Say Goodbye. Pradeep Chouhan raised an objection against Suraj for the interference but the same was overruled as the big made Southern King was clearly the superior horse of the two. Kripa was a short head behind Never Say Goodbye. Padmanabhan trained State Secret swamped the opposition in the 1400 metres Sringeri Stakes, a race for maiden three year olds. Athletic Star did the front running before being overhauled by the favourite who sped away for a win by a widening margin of five lengths over Fireflight. Athletic Star disappeared from the scene. Entertainer finished third. The performance of State Secret clearly boosted the prospects of Esteban who had nosed out the former for the second spot in his earlier run. Now running as the shortest priced horse of the day in the 1200 metres BARI Plate, the progeny of Mull of Kintyre, Esteban tracked Cielo Signore well into the straight before emerging clear. Art of Enchantment finished on well to take the third spot. Esteban was the fourth winner of the day for Suraj. Sharat and Suraj rounded off their tally with five wins as Amber Star led all the way and won the Gokarna Plate (Div I), a six furlong race for horses in the lowest category with ease from Caraway and Supreme Regent. The lower division of the race could have gone the way of Sharat but Cute Angel was beaten in the final stride of the race by a hard-ridden Independence Day. Both the divisions of Talkad Trophy were claimed by Sharat’s trainees. Living Legend held off the belated rally by Apollo King to win the upper division of the race. Super Saloni won the lower division of the race at the expense of Lucky Sam who shaped to collar the favourite but seemed to have applied self-brake as it were to eventually finish a tame second.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Martin Dwyer, one of a kind

English jockey Martin Dwyer left a lasting impression on Indian race goers during a fruitful season in India. He struck great partnership with wonder filly In The Spotlight who won the Gr 1 Indian Derby like no other horse had done in the last two decades.

Dwyer comes across as a friendly person, who has a fine grasp of his trade, instinctive rapport with the horses he rides besides being an excellent team man. It is no surprise that trainer Padmanabhan has reposed faith in this talented jockey for well over a decade.

From the time he came to India as a young jockey and rode Running Flame to Indian 1000 Guineas victory in 1998 at Mumbai to the Gr 1 Indian Turf Invitation Cup win on In The Spotlight in March, the association with Padmanabhan has been fruitful. Martin has won six Group I races for the trainer. Martin’s big race temperament and his skills help a horse to bloom to full potential.


Martin is one of the top jockeys in England and has the distinction of winning the Epsom Derby. The Epsom Derby is the mother of all Derbys in the World and it is the dream of every jockey in the World to win this coveted race. Martin rode Sir Percy to victory in the Epsom Derby in 2006. His ride was voted as the outstanding ride of the year.

Come to think of it, Martin very nearly missed the ride because he had a fall the preceding day. ``I hurt my back in a fall but I was not going to miss the ride for anything on earth. I was pretty optimistic about the prospects of Sir Percy in the Derby which was a 6 to 1 shot. Richard Hughes was booked to ride the horse in case I did not pass the fitness test. The doctor put me through a rigorous schedule before declaring me fit to ride. I endured the pain because I was chasing a dream.


``The ride itself was eventful. It was a choppy race and I could not get a good position. I had to live or die along the rails as shifting the horse out would have been suicidal in the crowded field. Thankfully my instinct proved right as I got the opening along the rails and Sir Percy responded brilliantly, courageously took all the gaps and shot through to win by a whisker from Dragon Dancer. It was a dream come true,’’ said Martin in a chat with this writer before he left for England to get ready for the long season which gets underway later this month.

Martin is not afraid to make the entire running in front unlike many jockeys who don’t want to depart from their patented style of riding a waiting race. In fact, he won the Mysore Derby on Field Marshal cleverly dictating the pace in front, taking his rivals by surprise when he quickened midway through the race, gave a breather to the horse before taking off again. His tactic ensured the Derby success for Field Marshal over Southern Bay.

To be creative, one has to lose the fear of being wrong. Martin has won races all over the World. ``Riding all over the world has been an enriching experience and it makes you a better jockey,’’ he said.

Martin understood the calibre of In The Spotlight and was astride all the wins scored by the filly during the winter season which included four classics including the Derby at Kolkata, the Indian Derby and the Indian Turf Invitation Cup. In each of the races, his reaction to the emerging situation (thinking on the feet) was remarkable.


``The trainer should have confidence in the jockey and give him the freedom to decide which is crucial. If you tie down a jockey with too many instructions, it can prove detrimental as there is an element of surprise during a race. For example, in the Invitation Cup nobody expected Southern Bay to go to the front and slow down the pace. Fortunately, trainer Padmanabhan had immense faith in me. And owners like Capt. Appoo and Harish Mehta were very understanding. I couldn’t have asked for more.’’

The jockey room banter and practical jokes are something racing fraternity is not aware of. Martin related one incident when Kieran Fallon had put shoe polish on his goggles which he didn’t notice. ``Just before the start of the race, I put on the goggles and to my horror, I could not see a thing. Even as I was yelling to the starter that I was not ready, the start was given. I had to quickly remove my goggles and ride without it,’’ said Martin. ``Pat Eddery used to be quite a handful for others with his pranks. ``He had a lucky tie and I cut the tie into pieces which had Pat in great deal of anger.’’ Frankie Dettori is another who loves to have fun in the midst of serious business of riding.

How do jockeys take these pranks and does it not lead to fights? ``It can be disconcerting but it is also fun. We are in a profession where danger lurks. An ambulance always follows us alongside. The fun helps to lessen tension. All jockeys are concerned about the safety of the other and if any jockey suffers a fall, there is great moral support and help. Some of the Indian jockeys who look pretty serious are good fun in the jockeys’ room,’’

But in the race itself, expect no quarter to be given, he said signing off.