Racing at the Mahalaxmi racetrack turned out to be more eventful than expected yesterday. The feature race — the Sahachari Foundation Cup — saw hot favourite Apache biting the dust, racegoers baying for the jockey's blood, stewards holding an inquiry and deciding to refund all bets on the favourite, and bookmakers going on a flash strike to protest the decision.
It all started after jockey S Zervan failed to do his best on favourite Apache, and his problem was further compounded when he lost the whip at a crucial juncture in the race. Apache eventually finished a tame second to first-timer Jack Frost (P Trevor up).
Apache was trained by Pesi Shroff, who has a huge following, and was virtually a banker for most of the betting public in the jackpot and super jackpot pools. Understandably, his loss triggered noisy reactions from the public who gathered around the paddock. The stewards immediately ordered an inquiry into the running of the race.
The stewards also questioned Zervan about his handling of Apache, who had assumed command on a tight rein midway in the homestretch after racing third or fourth for most part of the six-furlong trip.
Instead of riding out the horse to go clear, an overconfident Zervan took things rather easy until P Trevor brought first-timer Jack Frost alongside and challenged him. Zervan was asked to explain his rather feeble use of the whip. He was also questioned about losing the whip at a crucial juncture.
The replay showed Apache keen to go towards the inner rails, and Zervan shifting the whip from left to right hand. However, after only one crack, he lost the whip which could be seen flying out of his hand in the race replay. Zervan accepted his error and apologised.
The stewards have asked the stipes to conduct a through inquiry into the ride, and submit the report. It may be noted that Zervan was the champion jockey last season (2012-13) at Mahalaxmi with a record 59 wins from 191 mounts. In the current season he has ridden 22 winners from 83 mounts.