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Top Performers and Historians of Indian Horse Racing

By S C SHARMA | 11-Sep-2020

Past few weeks I am discussing about some notable performances of our past and present jockeys and trainers in my various posts,  as Corona- 19 pandemic given me some leisure time to know something more about them, because I feel they are the real guiding factors to  many horselovers and their experiences may prove useful to many, apart from refreshing some of our sweet and unforgettable memories.

     It costs nothing to know more about our top performers, historians and legends of past era. Success and respect is earned by hard work and good actions. Many of us might have not seen them in-action or might haves read about them only in media. The same-thing happened with me too.  I came in racing in 80’s and started taking more keen interest and active part after coming out from bank job ( in 1988 ).   I read  many things about our best performers and historians in news papers and magazines or whenever I got a chance to read their biography, I did so.


     Very recently we all  came to know about a beautiful inspirational story of how a 41 yr old bloodstock agent of our country Mr Gaurav Rampal became a micro-owner in a US horse “Authentic”, which won the prestigious Kentucky derby on 5th of September this month with a purse of 3 million US dollars. Rampal purchased a share as a micro-owner in that colt by investing 206 US dollars in June, along-with many others (4200) to become  a part and a small owner. “My race horse” named US based company promoted this new idea and concept and many became horse owners with small and affordable investments and fulfilled their ambitions. The basis for this concept was just to attract more owners with small and affordable investments with less risk, less loss and less profit.

     It was a life time dream for Rampal to be a part of Kentucky derby winner colt  Authentic. He watched the race from home in India as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions not allowed him to visit US. Racing syndicates are now becoming popular in our country too but for micro-ownership it will take time but the idea of micro-ownership and concept is very good. In India too Rampal was instrumental in buying good horses for his owners and so far selected purchases of big famous horses like - Alaindair and Trouvaille.  

     Today’s world salutes the confidence, determination and passion of persons like Rampal who set a example and become a source of inspiration to many,  otherwise there is no shortage in our country of persons who always keep themselves busy in spreading fear,  uncertainty, anger, negativity, frustration, pain, feel of guilt and disappointment. Such persons don’t see any positivity and have no respect for others freedom . I congratulate Mr Rampal for this success and achievement.  My message is very clear, feel  proud of your good actions and never act  irresponsibly and desperate and also do not allow anyone to interfere with your freedom, passion and enthusiasm.


    With due respects to all I also wish to clarify that I am not glorifying anyone or any particular one or a single person but simply mentioning interesting facts about some of our good performers and placing their hard earned success stories. It requires lot of hard work to reach at such a particular level and to a earn respect and a place in other’s hearts. Our past and present era of jockeys faced lot of stiff competition not only from Indian jockeys but more particularly from foreign jockeys also  in classic races and if we recognise their hard work and appreciate their best efforts and success,  it really means lot for them and matters much to them.  Every field and activity ( including horse racing ) have its own merit and de-merits, strength and weaknesses and everyone has to know the subject and fundamentals well before wishing to associate with any particular activity.  Subject knowledge always proves helpful in deciding bets. we have to adopt lot of caution, patience and care, and extract best from that. Without knowing swimming, we cannot dare to enter in water, and if we do so, than we have to be ready to face the consequences, without blaming others. Success and respect are two things to be earned and both requires extra skill and intelligence. Blaming others for our failures can’t pay anything and we can’t march ahead of others. In this competitive world,  we have to obtain and safeguard our place,  otherwise one day we will also be forced  to retire - hurt like many others.

    Here I will discuss in short about few more Indian jockeys who rode after independence and between 1947 and 1980, including reference of their notable wins in Indian derby and Invitation Cup races.


      He was the first Indian jockey to win Indian derby in 1949 after independence on Balam, trained by A L J Talib.  Balam was the first Indian horse to visit England.  Khem Singh won four times Indian Oaks, theee Indian 1000 guineas, one Indian 2000 Guinea and one Indian St leger race. He was leading jockey for several times. His riding won many  short distance races too.


   He popularly known as “Dada”.  He was from the first batch of Indian apprentice jockeys of RWITC. He won a Indian derby race in 1954 on Commoner trained by Simon F Neggim. He rode for long duration,  and kept himself fit for riding upto the age of 64. He rode more than 1000 winners and his 1000th winner was Silvery Moon. He use to ride mainly for Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, who presented his family two Mercedes-bench cars in those days, after one of the derby victories.


     He was the retained jockey of Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda and rode in UK too. He was the first Indian jockey to ride under jockey club rules in Britain. He won four Indian derbies --  in 1950 on Mansoor Beg, trained by H R Somekh, in 1957 on Balchand, trained by D N Adenwalla, in 1961 on Alijah, trained by Maj V M Lad and in 1973 on Mansoor, trained by S S Shah. He also won 1000 guineas, 2000 guineas , Indian Oaks and St leger races.


     He won a Indian derby race in 1966 on Red Rufus, trained by Aziz Mahmoud. The same horse won Invitation Cup race too in 1966 ridden by him.


    He won four Indian derbies -- in 1958 on Canny Scot, trained by Baba Khan, in 1968 on Our Select, trained by S M Shah, in 1976 on Commanche and in 1977 on Squanderer, both trained by R R Byramji. He also won two Invitation Cup races in 1976 on Commanche, trained by R R Byramji and in 1979 on Own Opinion, trained by A B David.  Apart from Indian derby Jagdish rode Squanderer to win Bangaluru derby, Bangaluru St lezer and Indian 2000 guineas too.

     His victory of Commanche in Bangaluru derby was sensational, where Commanche beat the shortest priced hot favourite Red Cockade. The victory of Own Opinion in Invitaion Cup will also be remembered for long where he beat hot favourite Royal Tern. Actually in that race late MAM Ramaswamy entered three horses  Red Chieftain, Philanderer and Own Opinion. T McKeown tried a runaway tactics on Red Chieftain from 1800 mts and young Karl Umrigar on Royal Turn  was in two minds whether to chase Red Chieftain or allow him to take a long lead. The strategy was well planned in consultation with jockey Roche for this race and it was paid off due to the superb waiting race tactics adopted by Jagdish. Own Opinion won nine classic races.  His class was internationally recognised when he became the only horse to be invited to race outside the country in Tokyo for the prestigious Japan Cup.

   Jagdish has to retire early due to back injury problems, when he was about to complete 100 classic winners. His classic win tally remained at 98. He won more than 1900 races ( 1960 ) and could have easily surpassed the landmark of 2000 wins,  if injuries would have not effected his riding career. After retirement he worked as a stipendiary steward with BTC for more than ten years. Later he was presented a "Silver Salver" for his best services to racing.


   Jagdish started his racing career as a jockey to Baba Khan and his first winner was King Solomon at Pune ( 1945 ). He won his fifty percent classic and big races for horse owner late MAM Ramaswamy and also won more than 15 classic races for his favourite trainer R R Byramji. His favourite horse remains as Squanderer, trained by R R Byramji though he was impressed much with Commanche and Own Opinion . He said - Squanderer always showed as he won with great elan and never felt any pressure and his wins were without serious threats. In Bangaluru summer derby in 1976 Squanderer just asked to accelerate at 200 mts and he just shifted  gears and bound away for a easy victory.

    Vijay Singh and Bharat Singh are his two sons and are at present trainers at Kolkata and both are doing exceptionally well.


    He won a Indian derby and a Invitation Cup race in 1974 on Top Most, trained by R R Byramji.


    He won a Invitation Cup race in 1975 on Midnight Cowboy ( held at Kolkata ) trained by Capt H D Fownes.  In 1975 he rode Red Cockade in Bangaluru Colts Trial to a very impressive victory but after that stunning show RC lost in Bangaluru summer derby as a shot priced hot favourite ridden by him and the matter remained controversial and in discussions  for long time. There was huge betting on RC and the colt was everyone’s day’s best. That time RC was escorted by police to race course as the owner received some threats of foul play and offered money to withdraw the horse.  That derby race was won by an outsider Commanche ridden by Jagdish and trained by R R Byramji.


     He won a Indian derby in 1979 on Royal Turn, trained by B K Lagad. ( About K Umrigar we discussed in detail in our separate thread. He met with a tragic accident on the racetrack when Vasudha threw him off her back, resulting he slipped in coma and then died while undergoing treatment in 1979 ).


      He won Indian derby in 1978 on Manitou,  and in 1983 on  Nelston, trained by R R Byramji and Invitation Cup races in 1977 on Squanderer and in 1978 on Manitou both trained by the same trainer. ( About Vasant Shinde also we discussed in detail in our separate thread ).


    The most popular and top prestigious races of our country  are --  1) Indian derby started from 1943  when Princess Beautiful won, ridden by E Britt and trained by M C Patel and later being held at Mumbai regularly every year on first Sunday of February. This year the race was won by War Hammer, ridden by Suraj Narredu and trained by Prasanna Kumar and 2) Invitation Cup races which brings the best of the performers of every centre to race against each other, and being held at various independent turf clubs on rotational - basis. This race started from 1963 when Mount Everest won the first Invitation Cup race, ridden by J Mc Gaffin and trained by Md Lahori and later being held every year in the first week of March. This year the race was held in March, ‘20 at Mysore and won by Adjudicate, ridden by Y S Srinath and trained by James Mckeown as the Mysore Race Club  accorded the status of new independent ( sixth ) turf authority  in 2014 and first time conducted this prestigious race. Adjudicate won this cup in successive years ( in 2019 at Hyderabad also ) and with a record timing in both essays. Now six race clubs including Mysore , are independent turf authorities in our country and conducting Invitation Cup races on rotational-basis every year and three racing sub centres  conducting routine normal races at -- Pune, Ooty and Delhi including many big and classic races.

     I covered the names of those jockeys only who won a Indian derby or a Invitation Cup race, otherwise the list of jockeys will become very long. I didn’t get much information about many jockeys  — from Khem Singh to Jagdish  era, that’s the reason I made a very brief references about some of the above mentioned jockeys. If you have more info  or any other details, pl. do share with all of us.

     Stay safe and take good care of your and family members health.  God bless you all.

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4 Replies

IZ said ...

On : 12-09-2020 02:43 pm


....Master planning by MAM to win the invitation cup with Own Opinion....

Three horses were entered Own Opinion, Red Chieftain and Philanderer..... it was Philanderer who tried to take the lead from the start to derupt the pace of Royal Tern who would normally go start to finish, but he couldnt match strides with Royal Tern so he fell back. 

At about 800 mtrs Own Opinion over took Royal Tern and established 4 to 5 lengths lead, here Karl thought it was Red Chieftan going ahead so he waited for OwnOpinion to make his move, but by the time Karl realised it wasnt Red Chieftan but OwnOpinion at about 150 / 200 mtrs to go and started to ride out, but it was too the winning post Own Opinion was ahead by a half a length. Royal Tern had lost a certain race due the error of Karl and suberb tactical planning by MAM camp.

S C SHARMA said ...

On : 12-09-2020 10:31 am

@ N A Ramdas and Chetan Ratwana : With due respect to both of you I covered the top jockeys of after independence and who dominated up-to 1980. Aslam Kader came after 80's and more so about him I wrote a separate detailed post on 8th August in horsetalk. 

N.A.RAMDAS said ...

On : 11-09-2020 08:38 pm

mr sharma how can forget the greatest jockey in the world  shri aslam kader who has ridden many classics of India n won  by sheer riding


Chetan Ratwana said ...

On : 11-09-2020 02:17 pm

Aslam kadar ????????????