• Ruffina wins The Sprinters Cup (Gr.1)
  • Azzurro wins The Dr M A M Ramaswamy Stayers Cup (Gr.1)
  • Whomakestherules wins The Maj P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr.1)
  • Kangra wins The Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) in record timing
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"Allow Foreign Horses to Race in India"

Pesi Shroff, ace jockey turned champion trainer, is not unduly disappointed on Czar Alexander’s under-par performance in the just-concluded Nanoli Stud Pune Derby.  Looking relaxed, the record eight times Indian Derby winner, offers a frank assessment of the race and issues concerning international racing. In an exclusive chat with our correspondent this is what he had to say:

Indiarace: Was the Derby failure of Czar Alexander a big disappointment?

Pesi Shroff:
  If any of my horse runs below form it is disappointing. In the Derby, Czar Alexander was expected to give a good account of himself, but somehow he could not live up to that expectation. Having said that, in every failure there is a lot to learn from. It’s a learning curve. But I must hand it to Gobelin, who ran a brilliant Race

IR: Everyone gets wiser after the event, what’s your post Race assessment?

  Well, there were a few pointers. You see, basically my horse prefers to settle at the back, he did not get to do it. The horses that were up in front finished fourth, fifth and second last. I had told the Jockey (C Alford) that even if he was at the rear end initially, it was okay. However, in a race the Jockey knows best. Czar Alexander was too keen and the jockey didn’t want to risk disturbing his rhythm and allowed him to run as he did. The Derby is a difficult race to ride in and one goes with the split second instinct.

I must also mention here that Czar Alexander got kicked on his left shoulder at the starting gates by Alvida. A blow like that can be unsettling!

IR:  Let’s switch to the international arena. Many are of the view that it won’t be long before our horses to do well on international turf. Do you think we are really catching up with our counterparts overseas?

I think there is a lot of work to do before we can really make our presence felt on the international front. First of all, do our breeders really have the confidence and are open to international competition? Will the breeders’ lobby allow foreign horses to compete in Indian racing? That would be the first step. Allow foreign horses to race in India. Then we are on course to really test ourselves whether we measure up to international standards. There should be the will and conviction to do it. This is the most genuine yardstick. Do we have the gumption to do it?

IR: Saddle-up, Astonish, Adler, Mystical…they have all won on foreign soil and more names are adding to the list. Do you see any talent in the current crop that will make it big?

It was a proud moment when Saddle-up first tasted victory on foreign turf. Astonish, Adler, and more recently Mystical, have done us proud too! But these successes have been few and far between. The current crop is still peaking and there are a few interesting prospects. The way he is shaping up, Bourbone King definitely has it in him to go right up there. He is looking good and improving. The end of Mumbai season will throw a clearer picture.

IR: Many foreign jockeys are invited to ride in India. What’s the score on our jockeys riding abroad?

PS: In England & Ireland, Indian work-jockeys are the most sought after. We have a number of our boys who are professional work-riders there. My stable Jockey C. Ruzaan is currently riding in Canada. So, the opportunities are there.

IR: What has been your international experience?

I have ridden in Australia, Japan, Nairobi and Bahrain. It was an enjoyable experience. I won in Bahrain and Nairobi, and in Australia and Japan…I ran close.

IR: A final question, do you miss your riding days?

(Smiles), I enjoyed every moment as a jockey. I must say that I was blessed with a satisfying, long stint.  That phase is now history. I am now concentrating on training and that’s where my focus remains. There is a lot of work ahead if I have to match my success as a jockey, in training and I intend to do just that.