Mathaiyus ridden by jockey YS Srinath. Pic/Rs Gupta
The dust may have settled on the Mahalaxmi tracks, post the 75th running of the Indian Derby on Sunday, but the Mathaiyus controversy continues to sizzle.
Dr SK Kulkarni
A show on the sidelines of the iconic race, threatened to overshadow the race itself. The gelding Mathaiyus, trained by Pesi Shroff, bred by Usha Stud Farm's Ameeta M was withdrawn at the last minute as he could not settle down in the starting gate.
Shroff had expressed shock at the decision, while Ameeta was livid when she spoke to this paper, post the race on Sunday evening. Owner M Deboo stated that he will write an official complaint to the club. He claims it was a case of sheer incompetence, which now, is being covered up by blatant falsities, which is even more serious than incompetence.
It is Mahalaxmi's Senior Veterinary Officer (VO) Dr S K Kulkarni in the line of fire, post the decision with the blame being put on him for what some say was an unwarranted withdrawal.
The VO though says, "Firstly, I never declared Mathaiyus lame. Those who have reported this have been misinformed. I refute the lame theory with a full sense of responsibility." The doctor, who has been working at Mahalaxmi for 27 years, claimed that his job entailed him to "take subjective decisions in a fraction of a minute."
Kulkarni said that video and camera evidence bore out his claims. "When Mathayius was loaded into the start gate, he was brought out once after putting his leg on the platform. Put back in the stall, he was brought out again because the second time around he was more vigorous and his leg was actually stuck. With the best interest of the horse in mind, I withdrew him. There was also a delay because of all this and 13 other horses were waiting in the gates to start. It was a once-in a-lifetime race for them too."
The doctor cites an example in the 1000 Guineas race a month ago in Mumbai, "where the horse Temerity was run, "after her neck strap got stuck in the hook on the starting gate. Jockey N Rawal then, was below her and she was stomping. He had to crawl out from underneath a neighbouring gate. We checked Temerity and asked the jockey if he was okay. When he said yes, we decided to let Temerity run. She ran a poor race. Then, people said why did you let Temerity run? The horse cannot tell me that she is going to run a poor race. I cannot predict how the horse is going to run," said the doctor, who added that he need not defend himself all the time.
Kulkarni also added that in his 40 years as a professional, the horses had rewarded him. "I have got my commendation card from them," he concluded.
Jockey Y S Srinath, who was supposed to ride Mathaiyus claimed, "I am of course, extremely disappointed at missing the opportunity." He refused to comment further.