Thursday, April 10, 2014

Shroff's daughter blackballed at RWITC

Pesi Shroff's daughter blackballed at RWITC

Just when champion trainer Pesi Shroff was getting ready to appeal against the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) stewards' decision to suspend him for nine months for his filly Bullseye testing positive for a banned drug, comes the news that his daughter, Anya, an amateur rider herself, has been blackballed by one of the nine committee members of the club when she applied for club membership last month.

However, that does not mean Anya's application has been rejected, because as per change in notification effected on May 1, 2006, a person will be ineligible for membership only if he or she receives 3 negative (NO) votes.
Midday is in possession the letter written by Additional Secretary of RWITC, NHS Mani, informing all committee members about the findings of the ballot held for the purpose. 

"All nine committee members had cast their votes," the letter details, "out of 17 candidates, 16 candidates have received nine "YES" [sic] votes, and one candidate, namely Miss Anya P Shroff, has received eight "YES" votes and one "NO" vote."  
When mid-day contacted trainer Pesi Shroff at his Pune stables for Anya's contact details, he said, "If true, this is very sad. My daughter is too young and innocent, I request you to keep her out of this." Shroff refused to discuss the matter further.
It may be noted that Pesi Shroff is himself staring at a nine-month suspension for vicarious liability on account of his filly Bullseye testing positive for banned drug boldenone while returning from Nanoli stud farm in December last year. Shroff has filed his appeal against the RWITC stewards' decision with the Board of Appeal (BoA) of the club, and the matter is scheduled to come up for hearing on April 18. 
KN Dhunjibhoy, owner of Bullseye and Nanoli stud farm and former chairman of the club, had called Shroff's nine-month suspension and "perverse" and "unprecedented", accusing his arch rival, current chairman Vivek Jain, of being "biased" against him, his farm and his trainer. In a recent ruling last week related to the same case, the RWITC stewards also imposed a two-year ban on all horses coming from Nanoli stud farm, in effect, putting a check on movement of racehorses visiting the farm for rest. 
The battlelines were clearly drawn when the race club also took another unprecedented step when it released Shroff's detailed suspension order as "advertisement" in "Cole" race book, and also published the detailed minutes of that particular meeting on its official website, from where popular racing websites and picked them up for re-publication, giving rise to ferocious debate in racing fraternity divided into two camps, one pro-Shroff and the other pro-RWITC.
Against this backdrop, it is no wonder that one negative vote on Anya Shroff's application has yet again stirred a hornet's nest, and rumours are flying thick and high as to who of the nine gentlemen did not want Pesi Shroff's daughter as a club member. There are accusations of "vendetta" and counter-accusations of "conspiracy", indicating that the august club's hallowed committee room will stay a divided house for a long time from now, or at least, until the next general body elections due in December this year.

Midday tried to speak to all the nine committee members who voted on the the 17 applications for club membership which included Anya Shroff's. While four of them--Champaklal Zaveri, Ram Shroff, SC Jain & Shyam Ruia--were not available, the others were unanimous in expressing shock and surprise at the revelation. Below are some of their reactions:
Geoffrey Nagpal: Are you sure? I don't think it's true. This may be a rumour, you better check it.

Jaydev Mody: My God, really? I am surprised and shocked!

Gulamhusein Vahanvaty: I am absolutely shocked. Pesi Shroff's daughter is a welcome addition to the club. I can't imagine why anyone would do it. This smacks of a conspiracy.

Who is Anya Shroff?

Anya Shroff, 19, is the only daughter of trainer Pesi Shroff, the country's most celebrated jockey who holds a record for winning eight Indian Derby titles. Anya comes from a horse loving family which boasts of accomplished amateur riders like Tehmina Shroff, Jimmy and Nan Umrigar among her grandparents, and the late Karl Umrigar as maternal uncle. She has been riding since the age of 5, weighs 41 kg, and is interested in making a career in dressage and show riding. Only last week, she participated in the Delhi horse show, after only nine months of formal training.

I smell conspiracy: Vivek Jain
"I am shocked by this revelation. She (Anya) comes from a family with racing background, and in fact, I was the first to welcome her and say she didn't need introduction when she appeared for the interview. There is definitely something more here than meets the eye. I think our members and the racing public are intelligent enough to read between the lines. There have already been attempts to malign my image recently, and this smells like a conspiracy to discredit me and my supporters on the committee. In fact, I did not even seal my ballot, and gave it to a senior administrative officer to be put into the box." 

Let there be a polygraph test: KN Dhunjibhoy

"This is absurd. I would think she (Anya) was the most eligible among the 17 candidates who were interviewed that day. She rides every morning and evening, she attends the races, and she comes from a horse loving family. This is not done to a 19-year old innocent girl, only a person full of vindictiveness can think of doing it." 

When informed that a couple of his colleagues on the committee termed this as a conspiracy, Dhunjibhoy said, "Let there be a polygraph test for all. At least once and for all the racing public will know who has been lying all the time."


(c) MiD DAY


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