Friday, July 10, 2009

"Luck of the race will be crucial": Pesi Shroff

Can he do it again? Pesi Shroff, trainer of winner Set Alight, receiving the Kingfisher Bangalore Derby 2008 from Mrs Rekha Mallya last year [Pic: RacingPulse.In]

The Kingfisher
Bangalore Derby is no strange event for Pesi Shroff. He has left his mark on its hallowed scroll of honour both as a rider and trainer.

Interestingly, Shroff, India's most celebrated rider, had won every coveted race in the Indian racing calendar in the first ten years of his riding career--except the Bangalore Derby! The race that eluded him for 10 years, he finally won in 1993 with Vijay Mallya's Littleover, trained by Rashid Byramji, beating Dr MAM Ramaswamy's even-money favourite Generous Patron which was ridden by Robin Corner. Pesi later won the event three more times--with Cape Dance (1994), Classical Act (2002) & Fantabulous King (2004).

After hanging up the riding boots and donning the training cap in 2005, however, Shroff did not waste time in attacking this race. In his third year as trainer, he brought the promising Set Alight to Bangalore last year and won the race in what was the biggest margin of victory (22 lengths) in the history of this race.

This Sunday, Shroff has two runners--Jacqueline & Astral Flash--in the line up for the Kingfisher Derby. Jacqueline is winner of the grade 1, Fillies Trial Stakes in which, grapevine has it that Pesi himself was undecided as to who was better of the two, until a small misfortune forced Astral Flash to withdraw from the fray.

"I am unable to prefer one to the other, and I don't wish to," Pesi Shorff told me over the phone an hour ago, "you see, both my fillies are doing well. Jacqueline has come up furhter after her Fillies' victory. Astral Flash is also doing exceedingly well in preparation."

On asked if he has planned any strategy for the race, Shorff answered in the negative. "No. Both are good fillies in their own right, and they will run their own race," he said, before adding, "however, I think luck of the race will be a big factor this time," possibly rererring to the full house field of 18 runners that is bound to force all jockeys to be at their most alert state to guard against traffic problems.

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