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Murioi is the horse to beat: Pesi Shroff

Trainer, who will have four runners on Sunday, marks Ramaswamy-owned horse as favourite in Indian Derby

As a jockey, Pesi Shroff won the Indian Derby a record eight times. But in his seven years as a trainer, he has won it only once — with Jacqueline in 2010. He has obviously a very good reason to give this coveted race in the Indian racing calendar his most serious shot, and this year is no exception.


Murioi after winning the Indian 2000 Guineas Race 2013 at Mahalaxmi in December last year. Pic/Shadab Khan.

“Murioi is a very good horse and is currently in tremendous form too. There is no doubt whoever wants to win the Derby will have to beat Murioi,” Shroff told MiD DAY recently. And to take on Murioi (owned by Dr MAM Ramaswamy and trained by S Ganapathy), Pesi Shroff has entered as many as five runners in the Derby fray, but is now left with only four as Silver Arrow, owned by Derby sponsor Vijay Mallya, has been disallowed from participating in the race due to his bad starting gate manners.


Pesi Shroff

“It’s unfortunate, I had great expectations from Silver Arrow because he had won all his races so well, frankly his true potential is unknown even to me. But one has to take such decisions in their stride — it’s important not to lose focus,” he added.

And the focus will clearly be on Jeremiah, the main hope from the champion trainer’s yard. Jeremiah never looked back after striking brilliant form in third career start, and reeled off five races in a row — all of them over the distance of ten furlongs.

After winning the Pune and Deccan Derbies, the Jeremy-Acciacatura progeny posted two clinical victories at Mahalaxmi in Class I over decent but older horses. Interestingly, stockbroker Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, along with Jaydev Mody, paid an undisclosed sum to owner Haresh Mehta and bought a stake in Jeremiah last year.

“Jeremiah has done everything asked of him. He is an immensely gifted horse who I am sure will do justice to his talent and run a very good race,” Shroff said. Jeremiah will be ridden by Shroff’s stable lad S Zervan.
Shroff has also pitched in Circle Of Life, the Oaks runner-up, who will be again partnered by Richard Hughes. Though she has played second fiddle to Jeremiah, Mariinsky, Murioi and recently to Oaks winner Isn’t She Special, there are not many who would take her seriously.

“I don’t want to comment about her Oaks run,” the champion trainer said, but defended her presence in the Derby fray by saying, “all I can say is that she is capable of a much better show.” Another surprise from Shroff is Amazing Grace, a Mallya filly, who was completely eclipsed in the Oaks. On being asked why she was in the Derby fray, Shroff shot back, “That's precisely why she is there. Her Oaks run did not match her spectacular debut victory — she deserves another chance.”

The fourth of the Shroff quartet — Archie, carrying the same Shirke silks as Circle Of Life, is widely regarded as a pacemaker (a horse who sets ‘appropriate pace” for the connections’ main hope) for Circle Of Life, but Shroff dismisses such speculation. “All my runners will run their own races,” signs off the master horseman.

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