• Lady In Lace wins The Deccan Fillies Championship Stakes (GR.3)
  • Prevalent Force wins The Deccan Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.3)
  • Mathaiyus wins The President Of India Gold Cup (Gr.1)
  • Mathaiyus wins the The Indian St. Leger (Gr.1)
Vasant Shinde is arguably the greatest Indian jockey. It is not statistics alone that places him above all other Indian jockeys, but his legendary deeds in the saddle that has become stuff for lore. In a career spanning 26 years, Shinde thrilled the race-goers all over the country with his saddle artistry and in the process accumulated over 1600 winners including over 100 classics.He quit the scene about seven years ago rather prematurely. It is not without reason that Shinde was respected for his skill. Rashid Byramji, India's legendary trainer, regards Shinde as "the finest Indian jockey ever''.
When he rode Classic Story to a brilliant win in the Bangalore St Leger, in a departure from tradition, he was asked to receive the cup in recognition of his outstanding feat which was instrumental in the filly's win against odds. In fact, Shinde's victory on Tiberio in Mumbai way back in the 70s is still talked in awe by old-timers. During the 1800 metres race, the saddle slipped but undeterred, Shinde rode his mount to victory with great ingenuity and guts, holding the saddle in one hand and reins in the other.

Shinde was a natural and was most graceful when in full flight. "He was poetry in motion'', says trainer Padmanabhan. "There is none greater than him,'' says champion jockey Pesi Shroff. "He should have never quit'', he adds.

When he rode Classic Story to a brilliant win in the Bangalore St Leger, in a departure from tradition, he was asked to receive the cup in recognition of his outstanding feat which was instrumental in the filly's win against odds.

In fact, Shinde's victory on Tiberio in Mumbai way back in the 70's is still talked in awe by old-timers. During the 1800 metres race, the saddle slipped but undeterred, Shinde rode his mount to victory with great ingenuity and guts, holding the saddle in one hand and reins in the other. Shinde's ability to get the best out of his horses have earned him respect from all and sundry. He had the distinction of being the first Indian jockey to ride winners outside India. As India's representative at the Asian Racing Conference at Hong Kong, he steered both his mounts to victory. Perhaps the finest compliment for Shinde came from the legendary Lestor Piggot who said the jockey who impressed him most during his stint in India was Shinde.

"Shinde is a lovely rider to watch,'' he had exclaimed. Former English jockey J Wilson was even more eloquent when he had declared as early 70s that India may not see another Shinde for another century. M Kinane who rode in India regularly during the winter months in the last decade, had said: "Shinde could match any lightweight jockey in the world.'' Shinde was "god's own jockey''. If a pedigree is to be drawn, Vasant would aptly be God's Gift out of Saddler's Delight, said a noted racing chronicler. Such praises were dime-a-dozen for this saddle artist.

Shinde, born in the hill station at Matheran, Maharashtra, into a horse loving family, rode bareback on ponies through the ridges and slopes which gave him the best "seat'' that a jockey can have which in turn gave him absolute control in the saddle.

Though he lacked formal education, he was blessed with intuition and judgement that were the hallmark of his riding. After notching his first victory in a gymkhana race at Pune in 1961, Shinde received his apprentice jockey license at Mumbai in 1971 and tasted success with his mount, Royal Touch, after which he named his house. Crippling injuries did not deter him. He showed courage in adversity. And he quit when he was till sought after as his hunger had died. Today, he sits at home, looking back nostalgically on the days he spent in the saddle. He misses all the adulation, attention that goes with a jockey who is in the limelight. "These days the phone hardly rings and when it does, it is not for me,'' he says. During his riding days, the phones never stopped ringing. But what will not stop irrespective of his being in limelight or not is the respect and regard that he gets from the race-goers for whom he was a delight in the saddle.