Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXI No. 24, April 1-15, 2022

Carnival time again at Guindy

by Partab Ramchand

What a joy it was to go to Guindy and watch the 60th running of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup! The Madras Race Club (MRC) had made excellent arrangements for the Diamond Jubilee year of the Blue Riband of Indian racing. The Invitation Cup weekend always has the racing fraternity agog with excitement and this time was no exception especially as it was being held in the city after six years. It was conducted on Sunday March 6 and was preceded according to tradition by the running of the Sprinter’s Cup and the Stayer’s Cup on March 5. The biggest race of the Indian racing calendar is conducted by rotation by the various race clubs in the country and this year’s event was full of excitement with the races providing thrilling fare. The MRC under the dynamic stewardship of MAMR Muthiah spared no effort in making it a memorable show. Socially of course it remains THE event of the year as the rich and famous, the crème de la crème of society are seen together in their best attire along with the common folk in the stands.

Those were the times, M.A. Chidambaram leads a winner – picture courtesy Vision Unlimited by Sujoy Gupta.

I was attending the Invitation Cup meet after three decades but having been a witness to some of the races in the past it was a trip down nostalgia lane for me. After the inaugural run in 1963 it was first held at Guindy in 1965 when it was won by Esquire. At the time only Madras, Bombay and Calcutta hosted the big race and so it was Guindy’s turn again in 1968. This time rank outsider Mother’s Boy pulled off a sensational upset victory and I well remember ace film comedian Mehmood who had predicted it would win the race giving the mount a hearty embrace and happily leading it off the turf into the paddock.

Four years later (by this time Bangalore had become the fourth club to host the race) it was glamour time again for well-known film star Sanjay Khan and his wife Zarine as owners were seen posing proudly with the winner Prince Khartoum. It was helmed by Rashid Byramji giving the legendary trainer the first of his 12 successes in the Invitation Cup over the years.

Commanche gave Byramji another success in 1976 but by the late 70s Hyderabad had joined the list of hosts and Guindy got to conduct it after five years. In 1981 Track Lightning in keeping with its name set a new course record in winning the race traditionally run over the Derby distance of 2,400 metres with a timing of two minutes, 30.2 seconds leading one newspaper to come up with the headline “Lightning blazes the track”. Five years later Amorous Knight was a popular winner.

In my long career as a sports journalist I have met, interviewed and seen in action several legendary figures of various sports and in 1991 my CV so to say was completed for I saw the legendary British jockey Lester Piggott ride Delage to victory at Guindy. It’s something I will never forget. At the bend just before going into the last open stretch Delage was bunched together with a number of horses while a couple of others were in front. Displaying all his skill and experience Piggott steered Delage out of the bunch in the straight, overtook the leaders and zipped past the finishing post to the thunderous cheers of the huge crowd that was simply enthralled by his riding skills.

Such were the memories of the Invitation Cup weekend as I saw Juliette win this year’s event. This is the apotheosis of horse racing in India with the very best of horses, jockeys, trainers and owners being featured; verily a carnival of racing with Guindy suitably decked up for the occasion.

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