Archive for February 2nd, 2019

Derby Day Memories – The Indian Derby – February 3, 1980

February 2, 2019

Tomorrow – the first Sunday of February – is Derby Day 2019.

The prestigious Indian Derby – the Blue Riband Event of Indian Horse Racing – will be run on Sunday, the 3rd of February 2019 – at the premier Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai.

Derby Day evokes memories of the most thrilling Derby Race I ever witnessed – 39 years ago – on the 3rd of February 2019.

Dear Reader: Let me tell you about it…


“What if…?”

“What if – I hadn’t joined the Navy…?”

Well – if I hadn’t joined the Navy – three things wouldn’t have happened:

  1. I wouldn’t have become a “drunkard”
  1. I wouldn’t have become a “writer”
  1. I wouldn’t have become “punter” 

If I had not joined the Navy – maybe – I would have never visited a Race Course – and – I would have never seen a Derby.  

During my glorious “Navy Mumbai Bachelor Days” in the 1970’s/1980’s – as a avid “punter” – I did not miss my date with the Indian Derby at the premier Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai

Many years later when I was posted to Mumbai again – though I stopped frequenting the racecourse – I made it a point not to miss the Indian Derby held annually on the first Sunday afternoon of February.

I have fond memories of my “Punter Days” in the 1970’s/1980’s – and – the many exciting races I witnessed – especially the Derby Races.

Of these – the most memorable, exciting and thrilling Indian Derby I witnessed was the unforgettable Indian Derby Horse Race run in 1980. 

Dear Reader: Let me tell you about it…


My Most Memorable Indian Derby – An Unforgettable Race


It’s been a long time since I visited the racecourse to watch horse racing – the King of Sport and the Sport of Kings.

But Derby Day is fast approaching and I am quite excited as to who is going to win the greatest classic of the season at the Mahalakshmi Race Course the Indian Derby on Sunday.

I can never forget that exciting afternoon on my very first day at the races – Sunday – the 3rd of February 1980 – when I was so lucky to witness the crème de la crème of Horse Races in India – The Indian Derby – which is run on the first Sunday of February every year since 1943.

I still have vivid memories of that wonderful afternoon – though 38 years have passed since that delightful Derby Day.

I lived in Mumbai then and a number of my colleagues were avid punters – as race-goers are called.

The excitement started on Wednesday when the declarations appeared in the newspapers and the conversations were abuzz with heated discussions as to would win the Indian Derby – Aristocrat or Everynsky…?

Well – Aristocrat and Everynsky were both favourites to win the Derby and each had their passionate followers.

But there were other good horses in the fray too – notably a horse called Mohawk.

By Friday – the papers – both the newspapers and the race tabloids – were full of predictions, speculations and tips.

Both Aristocrat and Everynsky had top following – but Mohawk too was tipped to win by a few tipsters.

Come Saturday evening – and we duly picked up our Cole Race Cards from a bookstall at Churchgate.

My punter friends were in a frenzy, calculating, computing, deciding – what they were going to wager – in the Derby – and in the other races too – at the bookmakers – and at the tote – for the jackpot, the treble, the tanala etc.

The topic of conversation during our Sunday morning walk on the Marine Drive was the “Indian Derby” – with “expert opinions” being freely aired.

We returned to our ship – had breakfast – and got ready to go to the races.

We walked down to Churchgate – and – after a hearty brunch of Kheema Pav and Chai at our favourite Stadium Restaurant next to Churchgate Railway Station – we took off by local train to Mahalaxmi.

We made it a point to purchase “return tickets” – just in case we had a bad day…!!!

Almost everyone got off at Mahalaxmi Railway Station and the atmosphere in the race course was electrifying.

There was a festive air at the Royal Western India Turf Club RWITC Race Course at Mahalaxmi.

It was like a carnival – with there were so many “two-legged birds” in the most fashionable dresses and exotic hats.

I wondered whether I should focus on the Horses or the “Beauties”.

To a novice like me – the whole experience was mind-boggling.

First – to see the horses parade in the paddock.

Then – rush to the bookmakers’ ring – which was surcharged with excitement.

You had to look at the bookmakers’ “odds” – then look at your own calculations in your Cole –also listen to “tips” – then – run once more to the paddock to see the jockeys mount their horses – and the horses being led off to the starting dates.

And then – you rushed back to the bookmakers betting ring to place your bet.

After that – you ran up the stairs to get a good seat in the stands – to watch the Indian Derby Race.

For me – it was fun to watch this spectacle – because – for most of the races – I was only placing modest bets of five and ten rupees on the tote – for forecast pool, jackpot, treble, tanala etc.

I had decided to just place one bet in the Indian Derby Race of Rs. 100 (a hundred rupees) for a win at the bookmakers – though I had not decided on the horse yet.

It was going to be either Aristocrat or Everynsky – whoever offered better odds.

Just before the Indian Derby – I watched the horses parade in the paddock.

I felt a premonition – a hunch – so – I followed my “sixth sense” – I placed my “win” bet on Mohawk.

Most of my punter friends were betting heavily on Everynsky

It seemed that they had got a last minute “tip”.

But – some die-hard punters were backing Aristocrat.

Aristocrat and Everynsky were the two horses who were the “favourites” to win the Indian Derby 1980.

But – there was a frenzy of betting on other horses too – especially on Mohawk – as the odds fluctuated wildly.

In the bookmakers’ betting ring – I observed a pretty young lady observing me – as I placed my bet on Mohawk.

Suddenly – the pretty lady asked me:

“Who do you like…?”

I was about to say:

“I like You…”

But – I controlled myself – and true to racing form – I said:

“I like Mohawk…”

So – the pretty young lady placed her bet on Mohawk too – like I had done.

Having placed my bet – I rushed out of the bookmakers’ betting ring – climbed up the stairs – and managed to get a good seat in the stands – to get a good ringside view of the Indian Derby Race.

It was a fantastic race.

All eyes were on Aristocrat – Jagdish astride – who had a stable-mate horse as “pacemaker”.

And – I think it was the famous Vasant Shinde who was riding Everynsky 

But – Wally Swinburn magnificently steered Mohawk to fantastic victory.

This result caused a stunning upset.

Mohawk had won the race from a fast finishing Everynsky – with Aristocrat left far behind – out of the reckoning.

My punter colleagues – most of whom had backed Everynsky were disappointed.

The few who had put their money on Aristocrat – were quite dejected.

When they realized that I had bet on Mohawk – they were quite surprised at my good fortune.

As I went to collect my win dividends – I noticed the pretty young lady looking at me.

She too had come to the bookmaker to collect her winnings.

She was smiling with joy – as if we shared some secret.

She had followed my “expert tip” – she too had bet on Mohawk – and won a sizeable amount.

The pretty young lady was delighted that she had outwitted her Dad – a “dyed-in-the-wool” punter – who had bet on Aristocrat.

The pretty young girl smiled sweetly as she said goodbye to me.

Then – she walked towards the members’ enclosure.

But – before she walked away – she spoke to me.

She said that she hoped that I would be coming to the Races next Sunday.

And – she told me – that she looked forward to some “expert” tips from me.

Well – Dear Reader – that was the beginning of a long and lovely friendship – and I was punctually present at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai on every Sunday afternoon for the rest of the racing season.

Do you want to know what happened to our beautiful “Punters’ Romance”…?

Well – that’s another story.

In due course – I would have to move out of Mumbai on transfer – but whenever I was in Mumbai – I never missed the Indian Derby – or any of the other classics.

I have enjoyed the horse races at the magnificent race course at Kolkata – where “lady luck” favoured me greatly – at Bangalore – where too I was quite lucky – and at Mysore – the most picturesque racecourse nestling under the Chamundi Hills – at Ooty – and – of course – at the cute little race course at Pune – my home town.

I witnessed many memorable derby races – at Mumbai – and elsewhere – but the most extraordinary Indian Derby I remember was in 2003 – when a relatively unknown horse called Noble Eagle – who was supposed to be a pacemaker – flew off from the starting gates – kept galloping at top speed – and the horse won the race in a “start to finish” swift run – causing the biggest upset ever in the Indian Derby.

Guess what…?

Believe it or not…!!!

The same pretty young lady – who had now metamorphosed into a beautiful woman – she thanked me once again for the racing “tip” – and this time – her winnings were quite substantial.

I wonder why I liked Noble Eagle.

I looked at the horses parading in the paddock – and while they were being led off to the starter gates.

Suddenly – it was my “sixth sense” that made me wager a “Place” bet on Noble Eagle.

My beautiful friend – the same pretty young lady – she seemed to have more confidence in me – than I myself had in my own “punting” skills.

I had cautiously wagered a “Place” bet on Noble Eagle.

But – on my “tip” – she had placed a “Win” bet on Noble Eagle at excellent odds – and she made a small fortune.

I wish I had been more “daring” like her.


Dear Reader – “sixth sense“ doesn’t always work – so it is better to follow the conventional way of Punting when you go to the racecourse.

Here are some Tips for the novice “Punter”:

  1. Study the Cole Race Book and Racing Columns in Newspapers and on the Internet
  1. Do your homework
  1. Listen to “tips”and advice
  1. Have a look at the horses in the paddock parade
  1. Observe the goings-on in the bookmakers’ betting ring and tote boards –especially the movement of the odds
  1. Watch the “big guns” and their betting patterns
  1. Then – make your own judgement and place your bet

That – in a nutshell – is the “Art of Punting”.

I used to love going to the races.

There is so much to enjoy – the thrill of punting – the air of excitement – the festive atmosphere – the sight of strong, swift and handsome horses galloping at their best – the beautiful people dressed in their “Sunday Best” – and – the delicious snacks in between the races.

Is there a reason why you should go for the races…?

A quote from my favourite philosophical book The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang probably says it all:

“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner – you have learned how to live…”

Happy Punting…!!!


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This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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However – it seems Artificial Intelligence may have a widespread impact by automating many jobs or changing the way jobs are done.

Click link below and read how AI will impact jobs




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Does this indicate that Indians believe in Family Values and make efforts to make their marriage work.

Click link below and read article:



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