RIP, Dr MAM Ramaswamy

Updated: 03 December, 2015 09:22 IST | Prakash Gosavi |

Horse racing personality, who dominated Indian racing scene for 40 years, passes away in Chennai

Dr MAM Ramaswamy, a colourful personality, who dominated the Indian racing scene for over 40 years as a horse owner, passed away in a Chennai hospital yesterday.

Dr MAM Ramaswamy (left) talks to jockeys Richard Hughes and Raju Pandey (right) on the eve of the 2000 Indian McDowell Derby at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Pic/mid-day archives
Dr MAM Ramaswamy (left) talks to jockeys Richard Hughes and Raju Pandey (right) on the eve of the 2000 Indian McDowell Derby at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Pic/mid-day archives

'Ramu', as he was fondly called by everyone in racing, suffered from serious kidney and liver complications, and was put on life support on Saturday. He was 84. A successful industrialist, who ran a business empire worth thousands of crores, Dr Ramaswamy was passionate about racehorses. He founded a racing empire which at one time had over 700 racehorses.

He dominated the Indian racing scene like no one did before him, not even the Maharajas of a bygone era who had huge resources at their disposal. That was so because, unlike the heads of princely states, Ramu had a tremendous grasp on the subject of horse racing, and a horse sense that was simply legendary, as proved by countless stories narrated by the professionals — trainers and jockeys — who worked for him.

He also had an uncanny ability to spot a champion racehorse at the breeding farm itself, and he picked up hundreds of champions this way even before they could be fitted with a saddle and don his now-famous silks of gold with a brown belt. No wonder, the racing baron won thousands of races, including 600 Classics, thus creating a world record that will perhaps never be eclipsed by any horse owner anywhere in the world.

Such was his passion for horses that he routinely invested crores every year to buy the best bloodstock, but his business sense always kept track of the return on investments — and there have been stories, some authentic and some apocryphal, how Ramu mercilessly took some big names among bookmakers to the cleaners by executing successful gambles.

His passion and single-minded focus on the objective of winning the races, coupled with his legendary horse sense, would ensure he always called the shots whether with professionals, breeders and the even turf clubs.

"He (Dr Ramaswamy) is like God to me. Whatever I am today, it is because of him. I was not even his first jockey when he picked me up, Vasant Shinde was then riding for him as first jockey, but he looked after me so well. He put me up at his Chettinad palace for five years. Imagine doing that for a mere jockey! There will never be another horse owner like him, RIP, boss," Satish Narredu, who as jockey won the first ever Indian Derby for Ramu in his own silks astride Amazing Bay in 1996, told mid-day.

"Dr MAM dominated the Classics like nobody in history. He was always affectionate and affable, and his demise is a huge blow to the sport," said Vivek Jain, marketing chief of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC).

"I can only describe Dr MAM as an obsessively passionate man about his horses and racing. He has left this world but I am sure he has already planned to open a racecourse up there," Pesi Shroff said.

First Published: 03 December, 2015 07:59 IST

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