‘Good people die early’ is a term that one consoles oneself when losing a dear one. Vinayak, a trainer of high repute and calibre, with a career spanning well into a third decade, lost a long drawn battle with a cancerous brain tumour. He was a shade over fifty when he breathed his last on the morning of Wednesday, 20th June 2012 in Pune.
Vinayak died with his boots on. The fateful ailment came to light when on a race day in January this year. He complained of acute giddiness after saddling one of his runners in the first race the day. The horses had barely left the paddock when Vinayak was taken to the hospital. That was the last one saw of him at the racecourse. Little did one imagine, that this jolly good fellow would be diagnosed with a dreadful tumour in the brain which was found to be cancerous. Although the doctors advised an immediate surgery, they had cautioned that his chances of survival were slim.
Vinayak was known for his jovial nature and that made him popular even among his rivals on the circuit. He was a great human being and a competent professional. “I have known him closely for more than 25 years,” claims jockey turned trainer Malesh Narredu. “We started our racing careers in the late ‘80s when I came in as an apprentice jockey and he as an assistant trainer. Over the years, we have shared many heady moments and our bonding led many to dub us - peas of the same pod! I cant believe he is no more," laments Malesh.
Vinayak, in his early days, was on the verge of seeking fortunes overseas when Mr KN Dhunjibhoy roped him in to train his horses. Thus began a long lasting association of one the foremost and formidable combinations in western India. His career graph soared when in 1997, the Vinayak-trained Indictment won that year’s Indian Triple Crown, winning the Indian Guineas, the Indian Derby and the Indian St Leger - a rare and classy achievement. He went to saddle two more Indian Derby winners with Noble Eagle and Velvet Rope. He also sent out four Pune Derby winners and delighted the Wadhawans by winning the Pune Derby 2011 with Hills And Stars.
Mr KN Dhunjibhoy, for whom he served the longest, says “Its a sad and premature loss to Indian racing. He was loyal, honest and a perfect gentleman to the last day. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife Ayesha, his son Aditya and to his family”.
“I shared the stands with Vinayak during the morning track work. He was such a character! He sets you off on an ideal start to the day with his wit and wisecracks. His pranks and practical jokes would have us in splits. I shall truly miss him this Pune season,” said trainer Magan Singh Jodha.
Malesh Narredu adds, “I used to visit him frequently ever since he was admitted to the hospital. I was surprised by the spirit he showed all through those trying times. He was gutsy and showed resolve. He always had a firm grip while shaking hands and he showed that same trait even a day before he left us. I had just returned from Bangalore and headed straight to the hospital from the Pune airport. Imtiaz Sait and I went together to visit him. His hand shake, despite his deteriorating health was firm. He was trying to say something, but his voice was feeble. I gathered he was saying “thank you”. I was touched and i assured him I would visit him again the next morning. There was that unmistakable gleam in his eyes. Little did I know that I wouldn't get to grip his hand ever again", said Malesh.
Vinayak is survived by his wife Ayesha, a professional jockey herself and his teenaged son Aditya, a collegian. Vinayak leaves behind a long list of friends and no foes whatsoever. As Pesi Shroff puts it, “He was a very sporting contemporary whose rivalry started and ended on the green of the turf. where it is meant to be. Off it, he was warm, friendly and good natured.”
Indiarace team expresses grief on this untimely and unfortunate demise. May his soul rest in peace.