Father-son trainer-jockey duo of Malesh and Yash Narredu, who won the 2015 edition, say the Bollywood element associated with the race is a huge inspiration for participants
"Dad, I must win this race, and come what may, I am going to win the mid-day trophy," is what young jockey Yash Narredu had told his father, trainer Malesh Narredu, last year when he came to know that actress Sonam Kapoor was going to present the mid-day trophy. A diehard Bollywood fan, teenager Yash gave an extraordinary ride to Speed King last year to win the mid-day trophy, and was on cloud nine when receiving the trophy from the popular actress.
A pretty picture: Bollywood actors Sonam Kapoor (left), Randeep Hooda and Urvashi Rautela (right) are all smiles during the prize distribution of the mid-day Trophy race at Mahalaxmi Racecourse last year
It is not only Yash, but most racing professionals over the years have been trying hard to win the mid-day trophy thanks to this Bollywood angle. Over the years, your favourite newspaper has made it a point to rope in a top Bollywood star to give away the prestigious trophy. The list of mid-day's special guests, in recent years, has featured big names like Abhishek Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor, to name just a few. Whispers are already doing rounds that yet another top film personality will grace the Mahalaxmi turf as mid-day's guest of hon ur this Sunday (Feb 14).
No wonder the mood in and around the stables is upbeat as some of the top trainers of western India are gearing up for the mid-day trophy. At the acceptances stage, there are ten runners entered from eight different yards, with trainers Malesh Narredu and Narendra Lagad having entered two horses each, while champion trainer Pesi Shroff has entered only one runner, Costa Smeralda.
Trainers Malesh Narredu and Pesi Shroff
"I was lucky to win the mid-day trophy last year," trainer Malesh told mid-day, "I was always looking forward to win this race as a jockey, but could never manage it. But my son Yash, smitten by Bollywood and Sonam Kapoor, rode a perfect race astride Speed King, and I finally managed to lead in the first mid-day trophy winner as trainer."
Narredu admitted he takes this special race very seriously because of its glamour quotient. "You see mid-day makes it such a glitzy affair," he said, "no trainer who has a chance to win this trophy is going to slip it by. mid-day makes you feel special, receiving the trophy from a top film star is an experience in itself, and you just cannot imagine the kind of high it gives to a trainer."
When asked which of his two runners — Silver Beauty and Volantis — he is fancying more than the other, he was quick with the answer: Silver Beauty. "She is a bit more forward at this point in time," he said, "but I have a problem. Both my jockeys, son Yash and nephew Suraj, are fighting for her. Yash in fact sent me the handicaps sheet with his name written against her, insisting that he wants to ride her."
"That's mid-day trophy for you, it can make fierce rivals out of two loving cousins," a smiling Malesh said in parting.
"My filly, Costa Smeralda, is a got-abraod," Pesi Shroff told mid-day when contacted. A got-abroad horse is one whose dam (mother) came to India after having conceived abroad, and then dropped the foal (delivered the baby) in India. "She is a good type," the champion trainer added, "but she is not exactly tuned for this race." Shroff, however, said she can run a good race merely on the strength of her good blood, and he will keep his fingers crossed. "Who wouldn't like to win the mid-day trophy?," he asked.
Trainer Narendra Lagad was very frank when mid-day spoke to him. "The mid-day trophy brings a different dimension to racing," he said, "rarely a sponsor goes to this length to make the occasion so special for both racing professionals as well as the racegoers. Hats off to mid-day, they have maintained the high standards year after year." Lagad also made clear it has been his dream for a long time to win the mid-day trophy. "I have won most of the prestigious races," he added, "so I am obviously looking forward to add the mid-day trophy to the list."
When asked about his two runners, Lagad said he had some hopes pinned on Rock In Rio. "He will be ridden by Dashrath Singh," the veteran trainer explained, "my other ward, Mastermarksman, will be ridden by Bhawani Singh, he should also run well."
The other horses (and trainers) in the fray for the mid-day trophy are Covert Action (B Prakash), Mano Na Mano (Ivor Fernandes), Star Scholar (Dallas Todywalla), Alpine Express (Vinesh) and Pretty Angel (G Karthik). The mid-day trophy, to be run over the trip of seven furlongs (1,400 meters), is reserved exclusively for three-year-old horses that have yet to win a race.