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By Mahendra Mallya | 20 Sep 2019 | PUNE

Trainer Uttam Singh

100 is usually the first landmark, be it in sports or any other field of activity. However in the human span of life, this milestone is touched upon just once and only by a select few. Uttam Singh ji is one among the chosen ones to celebrate his 100th birthday at the Turf Club house recently. The man is on his two feet and enjoys his racing even to this day.

Having spent more than half his illustrious life at the RWITC, Uttam Singh ji had humble beginnings and worked his way up to achieve several highs in his career as trainer. He started his career as a jockey and happens to be the first jockey in India to take up to training horses. He was known to be patient with his horses and never pushed them. Fillies in particular thrived under his tutelage; hence Uttam Singh ji soon earned the reputation of excelling with the fillies and earned the sobriquet - the Fillies’ man!

Uttam Singh ji’s first association with the RWITC goes decades back when he first procured apprentice jockey licence in 1939. He had moderate success in the saddle, but more importantly during that stint, he understood the horses very well. He took up training in 1952 as a private trainer to Maharaja Himmatsinghji of Idar.

Over the years he grew in stature as success in the bigger races followed with fair regularity. One of his wards – Highland Rules, soared to legendary heights by winning the Indian 1000 Guineas (Gr1), the 2000 Guineas (Gr1) and Indian Oaks (Gr1). One of his remarkable feats is with a filly called Lady Madonna. She won the Oaks by a distance and that happened to be her maiden victory!   

Another one of his unique achievements is the success of his ward Ferrari winning the traditional race – The Byculla Club Trophy three years in a row. What was unique about this is that Ferrari won the race each year without any prep run or a run at all. For a gruelling distance of 2800 meters that the race is run over, this was unheard of, that too Ferrari running and winning just that one race for the year, thrice successively! That was what Uttam Singh ji was capable of.

Ferrari’s rare and repetitive success in such a manner got the appreciation of the legendary trainer Mr RR Byramji. Arguably the best trainer of all time, Mr Byramji had once said “His (Uttam Singh ji’s) feat of training the nine year-old gelding Ferrari to win his third Byculla Club Cup in a row was noteworthy. What made that hat-trick even more remarkable was that Ferrari was appearing in a race, over a gruelling 2800 m., after a gap of 132 days. I consider this as one of the best training feats of the times.”

Uttam Singh ji had held the record of leading –in six Indian 1000 Guineas (Gr1) and seven Oaks (Gr1) winners for a long time, until current champion trainer Pesi Shroff drew level recently. In fact Shroff went one-up in the Oaks with Roberta’s victory in the Classic early this year. Incidentally, Shroff first win as a jockey (My Squaw) was trained by Uttam Singh ji.

Uttam Singh ji retired in 2002 when the going was good and he still had a few years to go if he so desired. However, the horseman in him remained ever enthusiastic and he mounted the saddle even when he was in his 90s! Admirable indeed!

One among the top class trainers of all times, Uttam Singh ji’s popularity among the racing fraternity has been evergreen. He carried himself with utmost poise and to date is held in high esteem and fondly remembered as the Ladies’ man. His 100th Birthday bash at the Turf Club House on September 19th was well attended by admirers and well-wishers. Team indiarace doffs the hat and extends the best wishes to the newly turned centenarian!