Indian Derby @ 75: Prepping for the horse Oscars in Mumbai

Feb 03, 2017, 06:00 IST | Hemal Ashar

A horse that vroomed past a Mustang, a Sergeant that may make it to the Hall of Fame, and a 380 kg horse that's considered 'small' — it was all happening at the pre-Derby Breakfast of Champions this morning. mi-day catches every minute of equine action at the Breakfast with Champions. Here's a teaser and appetizer to Mahalaxmi’s Sunday brunch

A jockey trains a horse at Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai on Thursday. Pic/   

The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) hosted its pre-Derby Breakfast with Champions at the verdant lawns of the Mahalaxmi Turf Club on Thursday morning even as Derby runners ran in what was probably their last session before Sunday. Horses are usually rested so that they are calm and ready for Derby day. All the horses to race this weekend are four-year-olds.

A horse gets race-ready with a shower. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The rainshower
A horse gets clean up after a heavy work out. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The Breakfast of Champions is not as old as the Derby, which completes 75 years this year. Yet, it has become a looked forward to morning ritual where owners, trainers, turf club officials and aficionados exchange notes, trade small talk about the race and play a game of conjecture on their horse for the big day. Who can say what the best equines in the country are going to do on Sunday? Certainly not the horses. Even the best of interrogators have tried and all they can get out of them is a neigh.

Mustang is no match
The picture postcard opportunity this morning was that of a horse and Mustang racing side by side.

Fooling around
Some fooling around is allowed. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Fooling around

Since it was the racecourse, and it is all about hooves here, the horse scored over the good-looking Mustang. Lord Arzaan, was ridden by young jockey Yash Narredu, with his father, celebrated jockey and trainer Malesh Narredu, looking on proudly. Yash had broken his right wrist after he fell off his mount Chilli Chilli in a race in Pune on September 10 last year. But today, Yash looked as right as rain. When asked about his wrist, he laughed, “I have healed.” And, he didn’t let his disappointment about not riding this year’s Derby show. “Well, of course, I dream about winning the Big One. I hope I am riding the winner next year,” he said.

Put through the pacesPut through the paces. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Sergeant, the stayer
When it comes to the Derby, the most common question of course, is who will win? The consensus at the racecourse among those digging into breakfast were Sergeant At Arms and Hall of Fame. That seemed to be the overriding sentiment. So, when we met Sandesh Akhade, the jockey who is going to ride Sergeant at Arms, we asked him about the horse that everybody was talking about. “He is a better class of horse than all the others in the Derby,” said the Matheran boy, who honed his skills on the red mud of the hill station. “The strong point about Sergeant is his ability to accelerate. He has a tremendous turn of foot,” Sandesh said. Asked about the one problem that experts have pointed out — doubts about Sergeant being able to stay through the 2,400 metre distance — Sandesh said, “Well, he is a stayer.”

Power showerA horse gets race-ready with a shower

Last, but not the least
A late entry in the 12-horse field is Malesh Narredu-trained Silver Beauty. This horse is technically called a final entry and her owners had to pay R6 lakh to enter her in the Derby.

A horse swims in the equine pool

“She is a quality horse, she stays well and I think she has earned her place among the contenders for Indian racing’s most coveted prize,” claimed Malesh, who added that at 380 kg, Silver Beauty is considered a “small” horse. The average racehorse weighs around 500 kg.

horses being looked after and fed by syces at the stablesHorses being looked after and fed by syces at the stables

This Sunday, her backers will hope the adage ‘good things come in small packages’ comes true for Silver Beauty.

A horse gets a horseshoe put on by a farrier at the Mahalaxmi racecourse
A horse gets a horseshoe put on by a farrier at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

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