Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So near, yet so far...

"The one thing that I learnt early in my career." Pesi Shroff had once told me during an informal chat, "is that in this sport it's only the winner who takes all. And I did not let myself forget that lesson--ever!".

Shroff had gone on to passionately explain why he thought there was no consolation, no glory in being even a short-head second. "For the moment, everyone may applaud you for a super effort, and you may feel great," he had added, "but what goes into the people's memory and record books is only the winner's name."

No one would feel the truth of Shroff's words of wisdom more pointedly than trainer S Padmanabhan.

His Becket ran a gallant second to Shroff's Jacqueline, winner of the McDowell Signature Indian Derby (grade 1) run on Sunday. The record crowd at Mahalaxmi did give a huge applause to Becket and Martin Dwyer on their return after the race, but the kind of standing ovation that Jacqueline and Richard Hughes were accorded was absolutely out of this world. It was difficult to decide what was more strident--hysteric shrieks of 'Pesi' and 'Jacqui', or the deafening clapping sound made by a record 27,148 pairs of excited hands?

Pesi was indeed right, the winner does take 'all'.

Perfect bid

"He's the best horse I have ever trained," Paddy had publicly said about Becket even before the Derby. Coming from a man who has saddled over 100 graded race winners, these words meant a lot.

And despite running on this track for the first time, Becket proved his master's assessment when he came very close to earning the first ever Indian Derby victory for the trainer, jockey Martin Dwyer and owner Haresh Mehta.

Even the strategy employed by Paddy was perfect. If you closely watched all the four earlier runs of Becket, you would notice he had always been a little reluctant to overtake the last horse (leader of the race), and needed strong goading by the jockey. But once the jockey urged and got him to put his neck ahead even with that half-hearted effort, Becket would simply bound away leaving the rivals stone cold.

It was therefore excellent strategy to stay close to the pace of the race, and press the gas pedal before any of the serious contenders came alongside or went ahead as a Jacqueline or an Onassis perhaps would not let him do it so easily as a Classerville and a Star Alliance would.

The strategy paid off well as Becket ran the greatest race of his life in only the fifth career start, and shaped like a winner until close home where he was overpowered by a vastly superior filly who was bidding for her fourth straight Indian Classic which she won in record time.

Future tense

Jacqueline and Becket will now clash again exactly after four weeks in the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (grade 1) that will be coming to Mumbai after a gap of six years.

The track will be the same, the race distance will be the same, and possibly even the jockeys on both Jacqueline and Becket will be the same--will the result be the same? Or will it be different?

I am afraid I can't attempt to answer that question so early, but one thing I am fairly certain about.

That most of the faces we will see at Mahalaxmi on March 7 will be the same that were seen on the Derby day! Because those, who have enjoyed the tense but ecstatic moments of the battle between these two giants, are not going to miss it for the world when these two meet next time.

(c) MiD DAY


  1. Bizarre similarities between the "Becket V/S Jacqueline" rivalry in "World Recession era 2009-2010" and "Sea-Biscuit V/s War Admiral" rivalry in "Great World Depresion 1929". Honestly, "Jacqueline" is a very ordinary looking filly while "Becket" is one of the most "Handsome Horses" to have ever graced Indian racing, besides the "Indian Derby" victory of "Jacqueline" by only 3/4 length over "Becket" means the "INVITATION CUP" will have "KHOKAS OF INTEREST"!

  2. Hi Prakash,
    I pray to GOD for your speedy recovery and wish you Good Health, Happiness and Peace always.
    Warm Regards.

    Anil k

  3. "Jo Jeeta Woh Sikander"

  4. Hi Prakashji,

    Very aptly said "Jaan hai to jahaan hai".Praying for ur speedy recovery and hoping that u will return rejuvenated.

  5. Prakash ji get well soon, I pray for you.


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