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By Cyrus J. Madan
Tuesday 21 Feb 2017
Trainer Zareer Darashah

God probably broke the mould when he made Zareer Darashah who retires as a Trainer on the 22nd of February,2017. There will never be another man who could be as passionate, as disciplined, as expressive (both verbally and physically) and as dedicated about training horses. Now bear in mind that becoming a Trainer was not his first ambition.Add to that the fact that all he knew about horses before he started was that they kicked from one end and bit from the other. Thatmakes you realise just how difficult, tough and arduous a road he must have had to traverse.

 It was in The Summer Of ’69 that he was first licensed. Unlike the words in the Bryan Adams chart topper, there was NO “standingand waiting on his Mother’s Porch” and those probably weren’t “The Best Days of his Life.”However theydid seem to last foreveras he set out to make a career and a name for himself which would have fewparallels in the realms of Indian Racing.

Over a span of 48 years as a Professional,  Darashah would notch up over2230 Winners. He was  8 times Champion Trainer in Bangalore and made the Mysore Season his own with 19 Championships. A record that is yet to be equalled.  He had his share of Classic success too with superstars like Fire Haven, Dupont,  Negresco, Treasure Girl and Lovely Smitha to name a few, but he was really speaking the “Working Man or the Common Man’s Trainer, ”who excelled in taking ordinary Handicappers and castoffs to the winners enclosure with unfailing regularity. He was a man who put his money where his mouth is, he himself owned a share in the vast majority of the horses he trained. In fact he was probably the biggest owner in his own yard.

An athlete and a National level sprinter, Zareer grew up in Bangalore and Mysore and his first love was cricket. He aspired to be a cricketer but soon realised that this was never going to be. He learned how to read the game with great aplomb but playing it was not his cup of tea and he moved away. He was drawn into the complex world of horses by a young woman and after that he was destined to write his own script as he set out to carve for himself his own little niche in the archives of Indian Racing.

1973 will always be firmly etched in his memory because of two remarkable women. One was Alfie Thompson’s daughter Linda who he married in early March that year. And then just 6months later a chestnut 3-year-old filly named Fire Haven burst upon the scene. She became the first and only three year old to win the President Of India Gold Cup in Hyderabad (The race was open to 3 year olds then and run as a Handicap before they made it for 4 year olds and over in 1974). Sinclair Marshall rode her and went over four pounds overweight but still smashed the opposition to win effortlessly. Less than a month later Fire Haven cruised home to land the Deccan Derby. “She was probably the best horse I ever trained and I couldn’t have asked for more”, recounts Darashah. He smiles with gay abandon when asked a somewhat similar question about Linda to whom he has now been happily married to for 45 years.

Some of the greatest riders in the country rode for him and the stories about those heady days of the past, especially when extolled by Zareer himself could fill a book. But to say he loved his horses would be the biggest understatement of the year. Watching him unobserved as he went about afternoon stables showed you a completely different side of a man who to many looked harsh and stern. He would chat away to some of his favourites and ruffle their ears in a gesture of fondness that he hated anyone to see. And then the way he cared for his Derby winners like Dupont and Negresco after they were retired from racing will always show that deep affection and love that had for his horses.

You generally heard Zareer Darashah before you saw him. And once you got him wound up and talking you could sit back and enjoy the fun as he gesticulated and prodded you in the chest with his forefinger to get home the point, whether it had anything to do with racing or not. Laced with the sort of adjectives which would have made even a Parsi blush Zareer’s descriptive vocabulary may have had some diving for cover but for everyone else it was entertainment of the highest order.

The Weighing Room and the track will be far quieter when he leaves. His swansong this Mysore season may not have been his greatest, but then even Bradman scored a duck in his farewell appearance.He walks away with his head held high as a Champion who will always be remembered and his son Neil will now carry the mantle of the Darashah legacy on the Turf.