Monday, October 12, 2009

Versaki wins Nanoli Stud Pune Derby

Trainer Cooji Katrak (left) leading in Versaki (C Rajendra up) after the Gr 1 Nanoli Stud Pune Derby victory. On the right, owner Haresh Mehta and Cooji's daughter Ms Lyla Marker [Pic:]

Versaki can tackle the Indian Derby trip: Cooji Katrak

Trainer Cooji Katrak is on cloud nine. And why shouldn't he be? The astute trainer, who bagged the Mumbai championship in May and is now the top contender for the same honours at Pune, added yet another feather to his cap by winning the grade 1, Nanoli Stud Pune Derby on Sunday with the Haresh Mehta-owned Versaki.

And when he is very happy, Cooji loves to answer any question you put to him. Here are excerpts from the informal chat I had with him today morning:

Congratulations Cooji. But don't you think it was a close one, especially with the objection by the runner up....

Thank you, and no, I think it was clear as daylight who caused the interference. If you see closely, you can spot Malesh going onto Versaki, trying to force his way. Now, get one thing straight--Versaki is a big-made, strapping horse weighing 522 kg and Cabriolet must be 460 kg or so if I am not wrong. If you try to mess with a giant like Versaki, he is not some frail, docile filly that's going to make way for you. You can actually see the smallish Cabriolet ricocheting off the giant Versaki after that audacious move by Malesh. And then note one more important fact that Versaki was on the outside of Cabriolet, so if Versaki was the perpetrator as alleged, both Cabriolet & Versaki would have moved "in", instead both of them moved "out" after the alleged brush [stresses the words 'in' & 'out']. That clearly establishes the fact that it was Cabriolet who went onto Versaki, who is just not the kind of horse that gets pushed about. He tried to stand his ground, and Cabriolet suffered in the process. I think it was a perfect decision by the stewards.

Now that Versaki has won, tell me frankly if you had any apprehensions about his getting the trip....

None at all. I was confident there wasn't any stamina issue. Some time back I had also had a talk with his breeder, Sultan Singh of Sohna Stud--they have bred some exceptional horses of late--who assured me Versaki has a very stout dam line as far as the stamina is concerned. Another bloodline expert, whom I respect for his knowledge, also had told me the same thing. And then as a trainer, I know my horse too well to worry about such talk.

Are you aware that Versaki's odds at one time shot up from evens to 16/10 just because most bookies and experts were unanimous he may not get the trip?

(Laughs loudly) Oh, this is not the first time I have seen it. Every time he ran, the naysayers have been in business. When he won the Poonawalla Multimillion, they said he wouldn't get the mile. When he won over nine furlongs in class I, they said now this was the last victory, he wouldn't get the Pune Derby trip. I feel the bookies had a one-point agenda yesterday and that was to lay Versaki. But I was confident. When the owner (Haresh Mehta) called me, I told him not to pay attention to naysayers. I knew we would win.

How could you be so confident?
I told you I know my horse. He is a very good horse. The only problem with him is that though he is extremely focused when he has competition, the moment he takes charge, he wants to loaf. Then he may go to rails, come out and do all sorts of things, making heavy weather of the job. But every horse has an individual character, and Versaki is made that way. I don't believe in tampering with a horse's attitude--my job is to just plan a perfect strategy for the trip, and I already have one in mind for the mile-and-a-half Indian Derby. Take my word, he will easily tackle that trip.

Who decides this strategy? You or the owner?
I believe for a champion horse there has to be only one authority in any camp that makes the final decision, and in my yard, it's me. Haresh (Mehta) has full faith in me, and although he will say what he thinks, he will always leave the final decision to me.

So tell us about Versaki's Indian Derby strategy....
Are you nuts? I will play my cards close to my chest. Although this is a sport, the big races like the Derby must be fought like a war. The difference between sport and war is that in war you have enemies--not rivals. (laughs) And once in a while I don't mind putting my enemy camps on notice about what to expect, but the "how" part I will leave for the D-day.


  1. it is kudos to coolji
    we join in congratulating him
    for his deeds.
    but let us wait for the indian derby
    it is long way to go
    let the best horse win
    prefarably fancied horse
    the battle is on
    not over

    good luck

  2. whaooooooo' What an interview.I loved every alphabet of it.Hats of to Cooji for his real analysis of the incident between Verasaki & Cabriolet & for PG for such fantastic write up.PG you have tremendous potential as a writer.You are wasting your time in racing & money matters.You will make millions if you stick to writng.Congrats once again for a fantastic interview.

    Madhu Rao

  3. Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

  4. Firstly well done to CDK for Versaki's Pune Derby win and as far as the Indian Classics are concerned they are way off and the fact is that no pune derby winner has gone on from here to win the indian classics. I think CDK would also agree on this. That there would be other horses peaking in Mumbai where as Versaki has peaked to his maximum and will remain there. Just look at Native Knight's run in the derby, in only his second run he has managed to finish under 2 lengths of Versaki, this itself says a lot about his potential. If Naren can train him on from here he will be a live threat for the indian classics.

    Until then as Easwaran lets wait and watch.

  5. My sympathies to Mallesh for mistiming his move and giving away a certain race .Had he stuck to the rails at the 800 he sure would have got enough place to overtake Red Dragon even If he were to drive a "Cabriolet" .The scuffle with Versaki at the 700 made him lose his composure and more so, lost a lot of ground on the outside.My verdict in this race..... Cabriolet was any day better than Versaki..

  6. Prakash simply a fabulous interview
    without any malice people like true blue and sharan kumar are no match with the way you use the english language,really how do you manage to get these fab interviews from the media shy katrak.
    great win for them my favourite horse,hope he wins the big D and once again many thanks to my favourite scribe.

  7. Dear Mr.Trainer of Versaki... please forget the chances of first 10 place in Indian derby...

  8. alright!
    i'm a tad late for the comments... but well better late than never!
    gettin to mr. katrak!
    i'm sure everyone in the racin circuit is definitely has spoken well and high of him after his glorious victory!
    but i would just put his work, his victory and himself in one word -
    do i need to say more?

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