Interview with bloodstock agent Gaurav Rampal, who buys stallions for Poonawalla Stud Farm in Pune
Dr Cyrus Poonawalla (right) posing with his equine star Chindit after winning a race at Sandown Park, London. Also in the pic: (left to right): Jockey Pat Dobbs, senior lawyer Satish Maneshinde, bloodstock agent Gaurav Rampal and trainer Richard Hannon
The world knows Dr Cyrus Poonawalla as the man whose company (Serum Institute of India, Pune) is the largest producer of vaccines. Closer to home he is also famous as a top breeder of quality racehorses. His friends know him as a successful businessman who, over four decades, built a huge empire which is known as the Poonawalla group. But bloodstock agent Gaurav Rampal, who buys stallions for Poonawalla's stud farm, gives us a glimpse of the personal side, and describes "patience" as the greatest virtue of his wealthy client. For Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, Gaurav recently bought Chindit, who reeled off two races in a row in the UK in the new owner's racing silks in quick succession (the Gr 3, Superior Mile Stakes at Haydock on September 9 and the Chasemore Farm Fortune Stakes at Sandown Park on September 20), and might complete a hat-trick on September 29, before coming to India to do stud duty.
mid-day.com spoke with Gaurav Rampal about Chindit making headlines, after being bought by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, winning two races in quick succession.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
What's the secret to your consistent success in picking up horses for your clients?
Rigorous study, I must say. Pedigree or bloodlines, is a vast subject, and to be successful, you need to have your own special insights. Those insights are possible only with rigorous study. And maybe a bit of a gut feeling, that too serves well. But the most important thing is to keep the client's interest top priority at all times.
Tell us a bit about the process of spotting prospective horses.
It is always a long process. In Chindit's case, it went on for nearly seven months. Finding a suitable stallion is like finding a needle in a haystack. The process is long drawn — first shortlisting, then filtering, followed by physical inspections, and finally, negotiations. Uncertainty hangs over the entire process until negotiations are successful and the deal is concluded. Else, one has to shortlist new prospects and repeat the whole process.
What kind of a client is Dr Cyrus Poonawalla? Is he involved at every stage? Or is he the type who just gives the brief and the budget, and waits for the result?
He is absolutely hands on; he is involved at every stage. Being a top breeder for decades, he is extremely knowledgeable. His inputs are precious. His greatest quality is that he is extremely patient with the process. Once he places his trust in you, he backs you to the hilt.
Is it true that, because of you, the owner (Poonawalla) missed leading in Chindit when he first won at Haydock?
Unfortunately, yes, that's true. Winning a race anywhere in the world is difficult, and winning a Group race, that too at a racetrack in the UK though tremendously prestigious is also incredibly tough. Dr CSP was inclined to make the trip, but I chickened out and put him off because Chindit had finished third at Newbury in a previous start.
Tell us about Chindit's back-to-back second victory...
Thankfully, Dr CSP finally led in Chindit. I was pretty confident this time, and he flew in only for a day. But at post time, the ground and weather conditions became pretty concerning and I was a bit stressed again. But Chindit made it. Trainer Richard Hannon had prepared the horse well for this race. The jockey (Pat Dobbs) also gave a superb ride.
What are the plans for Chindit?
He will run a Group race in the UK on September 29 and then retire to stud for stallion duty.