Get your Indian Derby facts right - By Prakash Gosavi I Mid Day
Posted on - 31 Jan 2013
Get your Indian Derby facts right
By Prakash Gosavi
PLANNING to visit the Mahalaxmi racecourse this Sunday to watch the most exciting race of the year — the grade I McDowell Signature Premium Indian Derby? Here are some pointers to upgrade your knowledge about horse racing and the Derby to sound like a pro.
Did you know that Mahalaxmi racecourse, today viewed as ‘ Mumbai’s lungs’, was once called a “ featureless, dreary and dusty” piece of land? In 1883, when racing was shifted here from Byculla, that’s precisely how a newspaper report described it.
But visionary Sir C N Wadia, founder of Bombay Dyeing and a prominent club member, transformed that into the most picturesque 220 acres in the city.
Before Vijay Mallya stepped in as a sponsor in 1985, the Derby stake money was a mere Rs 9 lakh. Today, 37 years later, it has crossed the Rs 3- crore mark that makes it the country’s richest sporting event.
The maximum number of Indian Derby winners produced by a stallion is five. Grey Gaston, a stallion from Usha Stud, sired Manitou ( 1978), Track Lightning ( 1981), Nelston ( 1983), Enterprising ( 1984) and Revelation ( 1985).
Among Bollywood personalities who dabbled in racing as horse owners Sanjay Khan was the luckiest. His Prince Khartoum, trained by Rashid Byramji, won the Indian Derby in 1972.
Rashid Byramji, regarded as a ‘ living legend’ of Indian racing, has won the Indian Derby ( hold your breath!) a record 11 times.
Pesi Shroff, now trainer, tops the jockeys with 8 Indian Derby victories to his credit. Shroff actually won 9 titles, but one of his winners, Saddle Up owned by Mallya ( trainer Imtiaz Sait) was later disqualified testing positive for a banned substance.
The only time a photo finish camera failed in the Indian Derby was in 1963 when two horses — Mount Everest and Rocklie — went past the winning post locked together. The judge, as rules prescribe in such cases, resorted to his naked- eye judgement and declared Rocklie as the winner.