Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Becket never lets us plan anything: Haresh Mehta

Horse owner Haresh Mehta, who was abroad when Versaki was put to sleep, has got over the shock of losing a star horse. "It was a cruel blow," he told MiD DAY, "but one has to look ahead, life must go on."

Life may really move on with a renewed hope for Mehta if Becket, another promising horse owned by him, wins the grade 1, Poonawalla Bangalore Derby today at the Bangalore racetrack.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Q: When did you get to know of Versaki's breakdown?
A: I was abroad, but (trainer) Cooji had kept me informed all along. I felt sad not because he was our main Derby hope, but because he was such a special horse for us. In fact, not many will believe this, but Cooji had told me he is a Derby material when he was a baby, even before he raced. He won the Poonawalla Multimillion, and later Pune Derby for us. He brought us so much joy.

Q: What exactly went wrong with him?
A: It was some disease which makes the bones brittle, some kind of osteoporosis. I am not a medical man, all I say is that it was nobody's fault, just an unfortunate event. Once it became clear he would not be able to race again, we wanted to do our best to ensure a comfortable retired life for him on my farm, so we took the decision of surgery. But when he had a fall after surgery, there was no point in making him suffer.

Q: Do you think Becket can fill the void left by Versaki and keep alive your Indian Derby hopes?
A: Do you know I have yet to see Becket win? I haven't led him in even once. That's because we can only be sure he is running in a race after he comes under the starter's orders. Problem is his middle name. He has had so many setbacks and soundness issues, it's a miracle--and of course Paddy's training skills--that he has won all his races so far.

Q: Becket is expected to win the Bangalore Derby today. Will he be brought to Mahalaxmi for the Indian Derby?
A: We will cross the bridge when we come to it.

Q: You are being diplomatic...

A: Not at all, why should I? You see, Becekt is one horse that has taught us to take one day at a time. I definitely want to bring him to Mumbai for the Derby if he wins today, but when I asked trainer Padmanabhan, he said, "Let him first win, then we will see." And I understand what he means. With Becket, you can never plan anything in advance.

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