"He is incredibly brave," said an emotional Zavaray Poonawalla, chairman, Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) after meeting jockey Ilahi Pasha (48), who fell from his mount The Big Revival, during the ironically named 'Race Of Hope Cup' held at Mahalaxmi on April 17.
The jockey is at the Breach Candy hospital, with extensive spinal cord injuries and rib fractures.
Poonawalla met Pasha, (who is Pune-based, he lives in Uday Baug, next to Sopan Baug. Both these residential enclaves in Pune, house several racing professionals) at the hospital yesterday, "where he spoke a few words to me. His mind is incredibly sharp. He remembered the entire race, he also spoke about some other horses he has raced."
Poonawalla claimed, he was quite "devastated, close to breaking down outside the room, after meeting Pasha."
Poonawalla added he is going to take up this matter first thing today, in the RWITC committee meeting. "I want to push for a higher amount given to jockeys or their families in cases of death or total paralysis. Currently, they are paid Rs 15 lakh in this case, I am going to make a strong push to double this to Rs 30 lakh. I will take this to the meeting to the Turf Authorities in Bangalore in July, where chairmen of all the turf clubs in India meet."
Jockey Ilahi Pasha with The Big Revival
Meanwhile, trainer Malesh Narredu added, "Pasha is off the ventilator. That is some reason to rejoice. Pasha, has been blinking his eyes, showing some understanding of what I have been talking to him," said Malesh. The former jockey and now top trainer said, "We both were apprentice jockeys at RWITC school together in Pune. Now, of course, he has been attached to my stable, for the past five years at least." Malesh says Pasha is a consummate professional.
"Tell him to be at the race track at 5 a.m, and he will turn up at 4.45 a.m, 15 minutes ahead of time, his dedication and fitness level are tremendous."
Malesh added that Pasha has always been a sought after jockey in morning track work.
The fall happened in the sixth race on Sunday, April 17, when the field turned for the bend near 600m.
Pasha's mount clipped the heels of a horse running in front, stumbled and fell dislodging Pasha in front of Rising Concert (S Kamble up), who also fell down. Kamble is in Breach Candy too, with a broken collar bone but is said to be recuperating.