The image and credibility of the sport of horse racing received a mighty blow last Saturday when administrators of the Royal Kolkata Turf Club (RCTC) clarified in a report that Harness Free, the horse that won on the opening day of the Kolkata Monsoon season (July 10), was in fact not Harness Free, but a look-alike named Quentin Derward. Interestingly, both Harness Free and Quentin Derward are sons of the same stallion — Greensmith, though their dams (mothers) are different — After Dawn and Outperform respectively.
Worse, it was not the first time Quentin Derward ran a race that Harness Free was supposed to. The stewards have also admitted that after April 1 this year, all the five races this season (# 3, 16, 26, 57 & 62) when either of them were to run, it was actually the other horse, who was saddled for the race. The matter came to light on when both the horses were to run on the same day (Aug 18), and someone noticed the goof up because Quentin Derward is a rig (when one of the two testicles of a colt fails to descend into its scrotum, it is called a rig), but the horse who came into the paddock was a colt (an uncastrated male horse upto four years).
Stewards play down incident
Both Harness Free and Quentin Derward are owned by Kolkata’s Bimal Khemka and are under the care of trainer Vikash Jaiswal. What has come as a shock to the racing fraternity is that the stewards have played down the incident terming it “to be a case of mistaken identity, and that there was no evidence of conspiracy to gain financially,” and hence have handed the trainer a token suspension of only four race days (between Oct 2 to 13).
“It can’t get more bizarre than this. A wrong horse has won, so how can they be sure no financials were involved,” said Dinesh Raikar, a Pune punter who bets on Kolkata races.
Vivek Jain, chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), was not aware of the incident. When MiD DAY asked him what action he thought the western India stewards would take if they faced such a case, he said: “If, as you say, it has happened more than once, we would view it as malpractice and take very severe action against all concerned.”
Many years ago when a Mumbai trainer tried to bring in a different horse to race than the one supposed to, the RWITC stewards not only suspended him for life, but also forbade his son from staying with him under the same roof, if he wished to train under their jurisdiction. The Kolkata stewards have however reprimanded the veterinary officer for dereliction of duty. They have also ordered the re-naming of both horses, and asked the official handicapper to assign them fresh ratings.