Pimpernel: One of a rare kind
INDIAN RACING has not seen the likes of him. He was the
greatest. He could win start to finish or from any position. Over any distance.
In record timings. The niggling shin problem never hampered his progress. He
made light of the back-breaking weights. He won 22 of his 23 career starts. He
did what others before him or after could not do. He was simply superb. And he
was Elusive Pimpernel.
Elusive Pimpernel proved the racing adage that anyone wishing to make
an ass of himself has only to issue an unqualified statement about a racehorse.
The horse will take it from there. He proved even the wizard of trainers Rashid
Byramji wrong. The champion of champions Rashid Byramji who has over 200 classic
success to his credit thought that Elusive Pimpernel (Watlefield-Right Step)
was a rubbish of a horse and thought that the horse was forced down his throat
by his owner Deepak Khaitan who got the colt in a package deal. A humbled
Byramji later graciously admitted that Elusive Pimpernel was the greatest horse
``I thought Elusive was a rubbish of a horse. He was tall and very
light and began to grow strong only as a late three-year old. Breeder A K S Brar
had great confidence in him and I had reluctantly agreed to train him. He gave
me immense hope after the Bangalore Summer Season (1994) as he grew strong with
every race. He won his nine races, including the Indian Derby and the Classic
Indian Turf Invitation Cup when he had sore shins. He could not race the Indian
St Leger as he had a stifle problem in his hind leg. A long rest after the
Invitation Cup seemed to have done him a world of good for he never had the
recurrence of the problem thereafter,'' said Rashid Byramji who trained him to
Though Elusive Pimpernel went about winning races with amazing ease,
Byramji was not prepared to concede that it was the best horse that he ever
trained. But not for long. After Elusive Pimpernel's win from an impossible
position in the Justice Cup in Bangalore, Byramji said that the two other great
horses that he trained namely Squanderer and Adler who incidentally went on to
win a race at USA, would not have done what Elusive Pimpernel had done.
Elusive Pimpernel's victory in the Justice Cup was simply breath-taking.
He was racing after a long lay off and was conceding weight all round and was
also taking on one of India's consistent horses namely Diablo. Elusive ran into
a wall of horses and jockey Aslam Kader switched him out violently at right
angles and despite his stride having been completely broken and with only 100
metres to cover, he came up with a stunning run to catch the front-running
Diablo who seemed to have sewn up the race. And despite all these problems, he
could still spare a length at the finish!
Sunny Brar who bred Elusive Pimpernel at the Dashmesh and Hargobind
Stud Farm, had this to say: ``Breeding is done with a specific objective in
mind. Though we have produced champion thoroughbreds, I did not believe that
Elusive would turn out to be as outstanding though I had high hopes on him. If
breeding horses could be reduced a system like a sum in arithmetic, there would
be an end to speculation and the exciting interest with which it is accompanied
would be wanting. It is not be inferred from this that chance presides
unreservedly over its destinies. However, it is an inescapable fact that
breeding is a chancy nick which throws into dustbins the best argued theories
about breeding. Well, I would not like to call Elusive Pimpernel a freak of a
horse though he belied everyone's expectations.''
The Super Star of Indian racing Elusive Pimpernel overcame physical
problems and stiff handicaps and testing conditions at various race-courses all
over the country to smash the opposition like no one else had done in the
history of India racing. He lost just once in his illustrious career when the
terms of the race were ridiculous. Elusive was set to concede 16 kgs to a
well-bred got-abroad filly namely Consequence. Elusive had established a long
lead in the short-straight at Pune in the RWITC Invitation Cup that his win was
being taken for granted. Consequence's finishing burst resulted in a rare defeat
for Elusive by a whisker.
Jockey Aslam Kader who piloted Elusive Pimpernel was blamed for the
defeat but the pint-sized dynamo said that his horse was surprisingly stropping
in the end. ``I cannot explain Elusive's loss that day,'' said the jockey with a
tinge of regret.
Unfortunately, plans of sending Elusive Pimpernel to Hong Kong or the USA
to race there did not materialise as the game Wattlefield progeny suffered a
tendon injury after his win in the Pune Invitational Cup race and was retired to
the Dashmesh Stud where he was born to do Stud duties. His progenies are yet to
race but there is no doubt if he is given the right kind of support, he would
make his mark as a stallion too