“Clean racing, my foot” says one Ranadev from Mumbai. Another, B Rajesh, says, “This sport is not for the common man, gullible and trusting fools like us.” Pragnesh M fumes, “The stewards are clearly scared of white skin.What else can explain their actions?” while Nair, a handicapper says, “This happens only in India.”
Jockey Colm Donoghue with trainer Dallas Todywalla (r). Pic/R S Gupta
These are just some of the reactions that from punters spewing ire and fire, with the Mumbai racing season barely out of the gates. Are they really upset with the steward’s verdict about jockey Colm O'Donoghue’s rides on the opening day’s races? Or are they, like sore losers, talking through their pockets?
Irish jockey Colm O’Donoghue rode two highly questionable races on fancied horses at Mahalaxmi on Thursday, November 19 and then, on November 22, got away with just a rap on the knuckles in the form of a R 20,000 fine and a 11-day suspension which, technically, includes only four race days.
O’Donoghue had three mounts on Mumbai’s opening day’s card: Phoenix Tiger, Victoria Harbour and Enthralling. In the ante post odds market, two of them, Phoenix Tiger and Victoria, opened 45-100 and 75-100 respectively, while Enthralling was quoted at 5-2 against favourite Harvey at 16-10. The odds on both Victoria Harbour and Enthralling, despite getting backed, doubled up at race time, raising many an eyebrow even before the races were run.
Both horses lost their races, Victoria Harbour finishing out of the money (fifth) and Enthralling finishing last. Both fillies had a history of winning their races going to the front.
The matter was referred to the Stewards, who decided to take a “lenient” view and give the benefit of the doubt to O’Donoghue in the case of Victoria Harbour because her trainer, Dallas Todywalla, stated that they had plans to run the filly in The Indian 1000 Guineas (Gr 1), and “wanted her to be settled and come from behind”. Todywalla and O’Donoghue were fined R 20,000 each.
The stewards refused to buy the same jockey’s defense in the case of Enthralling (trained by Imtiaz Sait) when O’Donoghue said the filly was “disinterested”, and held him guilty of a very serious charge of, “unsatisfactory riding”.
The stewards, in their reasoned order, noted, “Colm did not make sufficient effort after the start to sit well up as instructed. Further, his effort in the straight was feeble, he did not even use the whip and gave up too soon by not riding out at all in the last one furlong of the race and such riding from a jockey of his calibre on a fancied runner was not acceptable.”
What has shocked followers is that in spite of holding the Irishman guilty of such a serious charge, the stewards suspended him for only four race days.
Ghulam Vahanvaty, Chairman of the stewards, RWITC says: “Since, in the first instance, Colm O’ Donoghue was following the instructions of the trainer (Dallas Todywalla) we could not fault him completely. We fined Dallas though and we were a little dissatisfied about Colm’s riding in the straight. In the second instance (on Enthralling) we have given Colm a four day suspension.” Referring to the outpouring of anger, Vahanvaty stated, “I have the highest respect for our punters, but, sometimes, it is the purse that does the talking and many of our punters get emotionally involved with their bets. If we were intimidated by skin colour, why would he (Colm) be suspended for four days? We absolutely believe in clean and fair racing.”