Trainer Sandeep Mangalorkar, once flying high as a top trainer in western India with a full contingent of 60 thoroughbreds owned by big names like the late Khataus, Poonawallas, Dhunjibhoys, Vijay Mallya and the late Ranjit Bhat, now leads a relatively obscure life. He’s still doing what he loves most though — training horses; but there are only three horses in his yard — two of them he owns himself in partnership with friends.
On Thursday at Mahalaxmi, he created a sensation by saddling two winners in succession — Harzeliyah and Fortune Hunter, the latter winning the prestigious Mayor’s Trophy. In an interview with MiD DAY, the winning trainer spoke about his double delight and his failed move abroad. Excerpts
You have only three horses in your stable and won with two today. How did you manage this?
You’d be on the mark if you had said that last week, but not now because two horses from Sunderji’s yard came to me three days ago. So my stable strength doubled almost overnight — I now have five horses. Today I was able to place my horses well. I recently changed the feed too and that made a big difference. Anyone, who saw Fortune Hunter in the paddock today would’ve felt he’d win — he looked so good.
You were once a top trainer with 60 horses. How did all that change?
I was first an assistant to RR Byramji, who set me up in Mumbai when he shifted base to Bangalore. I was never a champion, but must have finished runner up 4-5 times in Mumbai and Pune. Even when I had good owners and a full quota of 60 horses, I never focused on being a champion. I always wanted my owners to make money and win big races. Errors and mistakes never go unpunished in this game, and what I made was a blunder. In 1993, I got an offer to train for the Al-Ain stable, which belonged to a ruler of one of the Emirates, and packed off to race in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
But shouldn’t working for a Gulf ruler be a step up?
Initially I thought so, but soon realised my blunder when Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, who races big in England, decided to shift his horses to Dubai in winter due to the severe English weather. Against that kind of competition, we stood no chance. I had to fold up and return. I was away for only a year, but it made my comeback difficult.
Did you try to get back your owners and horses?
I have never been a PR man. It’s not in my nature to do networking and go around asking for horses. But I have no complaints. I am an old-school trainer and I enjoy doing it whether I have three horses or thirty — occasionally pausing to celebrate on a day like this.