Jockey Suraj Narredu reaches the magic figure
Ace rider Suraj Narredu scores his 2,000th win at Hyderabad
Jockey Suraj Narredu finally kept his date with destiny. On Monday at the Malakpet racetrack in Hyderabad, with only two short of the magic figure of 2,000 career wins, he steered, in a span of only 30 minutes, two horses--Ruletheworld & Guiding Force--to back-to-back victories. The Hyderabad crowd erupted in joy, accorded a standing ovation and thunderous applause when Suraj passed the winning post astride Guiding Force trained by KSV Prasad Raju.
The Bangalore-based peripatetic rider, who in the last four days rode at Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Hyderabad to notch up the final three wins he needed, is a self-proclaimed "family"-man, and true to his word, made sure his family tagged along from Bangalore to Mumbai (Sunday) and on to Hyderabad (Monday) to witness the most exciting moment for the jockey's career.
Suraj Narredu became only the second Indian jockey in history to reach this milestone after the late B Prakash (2,446 winners). For a jockey who went without a win for the first 100 days of his career, reaching this incredible landmark in a career spanning 17 years speaks volumes about the ace jockey's talent and commitment.
"Moments like these don't come too often in an athlete's career," Suraj tweeted soon after creating history, "I thank every supporter and fan. Racing has been kind, memorable & inspirational for me!"
In a telephonic chat with mid-day yesterday evening, Suraj said he would like to dedicate this milestone to his dad, Satish Narredu (former jockey and trainer) without whom he wouldn't be what he is today. "My dad has been the biggest positive influence in my life, always there for me as a friend, philosopher and guide."
Suraj also categorically dispelled rumours that he was seriously considering second innings as a trainer after this high point in his riding career. "No way--certainly not for the next five years!," he clarified, "I am still enjoying as a jockey--reporting to the track every day at dawn, working horses, watching race videos and doing my own handicapping before campaigning for rides--all this gives me great pleasure, and I will not change this routine as long as I am physically fit and enjoy every bit of it."
It's no co-incidence
Suraj Narredu rode his 2,000th winner astride Guiding Force. The jockey, a devotee of Tirupati Balaji, told mid-day he felt the name had a divine connection. "There has always been a guiding force that is watching over me, has kept me safe and free of major injuries, and has corrected my path when I needed help. I don't think it was a mere coincidence that my historic winner was named Guiding Force."
Reactions from the 1000+ club
Aslam Kader (1,717 wins): "It's an amazing feat, and I am taking it as a birthday gift coming from Suraj Narredu," former ace jockey Aslam Kader told mid-day. The pint-sized dynamo, who earned the nickname "AK-47" from racing fans, Aslam Kader was celebrating his 58th birthday in Bangalore when the news from Hyderabad reached him. "Only a jockey can know what dedication, what commitment and what sacrifices are required for this kind of magnificent achievement."
"Don't go so soon!"
Malesh Narredu (1,762 wins): Suraj Narredu's uncle Malesh, who hung up his riding boots seven years ago to become horse trainer, watched his nephew's 2,000th win from his home in Pune. "We all (wife and two sons--jockey Yash & trainer Deepesh) were glued to the screen," an excited Malesh told mid-day soon after watching Suraj riding Guiding Force to the landmark victory.
Funnily, Malesh strongly felt Suraj made a blunder by making his move too early. He started shouting hysterically at the top of his voice, throwing instructions at Suraj on the screen: "Oh..don't...don't..for God's sake..don't go so soon.."
"But when I saw Suraj and the horse running away from the field, my joy knew no bounds. I had tears in my eyes."
Pesi Shroff (1,751 wins): Ace-jockey-turned-champion-trainer Pesi Shroff called Suraj's feat "Stupendous". Incidentally, Pesi himself had to fight a hard battle to keep his weight down in the last phase of his riding career, a problem that Suraj too has been facing of late.
"Weight not only slows down a freight train, it also slows down a jockey," Shroff had remarked in jest in an interview many years ago. "This is an extraordinary milestone because, not many know but after a time it becomes a mental game," he told mid-day over the phone.
"Talent is one thing, but keeping yourself physically fit to consistently perform at the highest level of the game requires great discipline and mental toughness. That's why this is a really stupendous feat in every sense."
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