Karl Umrigar, we miss you!

Apr 08, 2010, 07:15 IST | Prakash Gosavi

Umrigar's exploits of the 1970's are still unmatchable

Umrigar's exploits of the 1970's are still unmatchable

Last week's Karl Umrigar Turf Championship was followed this Sunday by R M Goculdas Gold Cup at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. For one who started his racing with Royal Tern, owned by R M Goculdas and ridden to Derby victory by Karl Umrigar in 1979, the two successive Sundays' racing brought back nostalgic memories of a bygone era.

The late Karl Umrigar during his best days as a jockey

The Goculdas family was a prominent name in racing in those days, and owned a sizeable string of horses trained by Bal Lagad. R M Goculdas, fondly called 'Tanubhai', passed away recently. He was a passionate horse lover who took great pride in watching his 'cherry & black hoops' silks striding first past the winning post. He was also a very fair moderator and served as a member and steward on the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) committee for 28 years between 1960-88.

The Goculdases always had success with horses, but never tasted the kind of heady success that jockey Karl Umrigar earned for them. The young riding sensation simply enraptured the race-goers with his magical riding skills.

In the 1978-79 Mahalaxmi racing season, all you needed to do was bet on Karl's mounts for win or place or whatever, and within minutes, collect your profits. It almost was easy money.

Doubles and trebles on every day's card became a norm for Karl Umrigar who rode 144 mounts that season with 54 winners, 33 seconds, 22 thirds and 17 fourths, only 18 of his rides failing to finish in the frame.
 
He also won the Indian 2000 Guineas and Derby with Royal Tern and the Indian Oaks with Tulipa, both carrying the Goculdas family's silks.

Only a day before he was to be crowned as champion rider, he met with a tragic accident on the racetrack when Vasudha, a Scindia-owned filly, threw him off her back and hurt him badly. He slipped into coma at the Breach Candy hospital, he succumbed a few days later.

Shattered
Jockey Vasant Shinde who was trailing Karl in the tally cancelled all his rides on the last day, and R M Goculdas was too shattered to accept the winning owner's trophy. Hundreds of race-goers had rushed to Breach Candy to donate blood for Karl, thousands prayed for his speedy recovery, some desperate fans camped on the footpath outside the hospital day and night. Never before -- or never since -- a jockey was loved so passionately by his fans.

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