Indian Ace Malesh Narredu has been chosen to represent the Rest of the World jockeys’ Team for the Shergar Cup weekend at Ascot. The Shergar Cup, which is run at Ascot on Saturday August 8, is the most popular jockeys’ team event in the world. There are four teams - Britain, Ireland, Europe and Rest of the World - with three jockeys on each team. There will be six races (each worth £35,000) on the day and each jockey rides in five of them, with their mounts chosen by team advisors to try and get an even split of chances - one favourite, three middle chances and one outsider. Malesh Narredu received an invitation to ride on the Rest of the World team.
The other jockeys in his team are Ahmed Ajtebi (Captain) from Dubai and Hiroyuki Uchida, a Japanese jockey, and a close rival to native champion jockey – Yutaka Take. In addition to a share of the prize money, each team member receives £2,500 (if the team wins on points), £1,750 (if the team is 2nd), £1,250 (if the team is 3rd), £1,000 (if the team is 4th). The jockey who scores the most points during the competition will win a Silver Saddle trophy and £3,000. Before embarking on this prestigious contest, Malesh Narredu spoke to indiarace: (Excerpts) Indiarace: What were the criteria for you being selected on the World Jockeys Team? M Narredu: Well, record and achievements are the main criteria, and probably current form was also taken into consideration. I received a similar invitation to ride in the rest of the world jockeys vs South African Jockeys last year.
Therefore, this is my second call. IR: Tell us about that experience. MN: It was a well-organized event at Johannesburg last year. The mounts were chosen by lots and one had to ride whatever was picked in a draw. I was not too lucky and the horses I got to ride were not the best of horses.
I failed to make much impact, but the experience is something I will fondly recall all my life. IR: What do these events mean professionally? MN: Oh, it is wonderful to be a part of racing overseas alongside some of the best jockeys in the business. I had on my team international jockeys of high repute. Mike Kinane, Frankie Dettori, Darren Holland, Christophe Soumillion, Damien Oliver… are all celebrities of the racing world. It was enriching to stay with them and share so many interesting anecdotes on international racing.
We had a wonderful time, both on and off the track. IR: Was there too much rivalry or was it a festive atmosphere? MN: You see, the racing was as fiercely competitive as it can be. We had made elaborate strategies taking each race exclusively. There was lot of planning and discussion. The jockey room atmosphere was something one had to experience to believe.
The host jockeys too were on their toes. There was healthy competitiveness, but I must add that the hospitality was uncompromised. It was a thoroughly enjoyable fortnight. The local jockeys won and that sent the home crowd into raptures. However, the crowd was impartial and we all had our share of supporters.
There was a surprisingly large section of Indians and that ensured that I got enough encouragement. IR: Is there anything you remember exclusively? MN: Of course, there are many fond memories. However, the most touching and proud moment for me was when my name was called and when I walked to the podium, they played the Indian National Anthem with our national tri-colour flying high. The feeling is truly magnificent and the surrounding vision suddenly gets blurred when you hear your national Anthem being played. No dust-in-the-eye reason here.
Representing one’s country is one void in a jockey’s life and I am immensely thankful to the Almighty for having blessed me with the opportunity! I still feel the goose pimples when I recall these moments. For a sportsman, there is no better feeling beyond representing his country. IR: What do you foresee at Ascot now? MN: I am sure my team will be all out to get the top honours. I am only hoping that the horses we get are as rearing to go as we are too. Each of us will be fully keyed up to do well on this international platform.
Such opportunities do not come by too often and I am going to make this one count. IR: What will be the best outcome on this assignment? MN: For one, this will be a great weekend and the entertainment will be maximum. Then, there is so much one can learn participating in such events. The exchange of cultures is also a rewarding experience. The best outcome? It will be if I can lay my hands on that prestigious Silver Saddle and bring it back with me to India!