A mention of The Raj conjures up mixed feelings of the days of yore, with its report card resembling that of the quintessential naughty English schoolboy. A capital “F” highlighting failure in all dealings with the subjects, but high marks in extra-curricular activities and in sports.
Which right thinking citizen will accrue to them even the slightest blame, for introducing to India, the joys of ballroom dancing, gin n tonic or, until recently, a medium rare beef stake?
Or forget that cricket, & horse racing are imports of the East India Company?
Of the two sports, it is horse racing that has ironically survived the lure of lucre and continues to run as a gentleman’s sport.
No T20. But tea with mint leaves.
No trophy wives. Gold and silver trophies.
No 3rd umpire. 9 stewards.
No models doubling up as commentators. Model commentators.
The list between their comparative evolutions could go on and on.
It is this respect for tradition, combined with the opportunity to watch the winner of the jewel in the crown of Indian racing, the Indian Derby that attracts 30,000 people to Mahalaxmi, year after year.
With a packed field of horses and leading knights of the pigskin astride them, Derby Day is set to for its traditional running, once again, on the first Sunday of February.
The attendees, like the equines, are unlike at any other sporting event in India.
Hats, high heels, short dresses, ties, bow ties, pocket squares, sharp suits & sun glasses. Derby Day is so much a fashion extravaganza that it could fool any first timer into believing he or she has arrived at a fashion show rather than at a centuries old race course where the finest race horses make history.
Should you join in, as you must, a smattering of knowledge about the potential candidates will help you blend in, even as you put your sartorial skills to test and do your best to stand out.
Prevalent Force should be the favourite. This colt has run 7 times and won his last 6 races back to back. His collection of precious metal includes trophies from The South India and Deccan Derbies, The Golconda 2000 Guineas and The Deccan Colts Championship Stakes.
If you prefer looking at the ladies, steal a glance at Lady In Lace. She is the winner of the Pune Derby and the lucky winner of the Indian 1000 Guineas. Or then shift your gaze to Manifold. However, know that Prevalent Force has beaten Lady in Lace who has beaten Manifold in previous encounters.
If long shots are more your thing then Aggregated has won The Calcutta 2000 Guineas in only the 2nd start of his life and the Calcutta Derby in his 3rd. In this 4th run of his life and whose owner, Diwan Arun Nanda, has flown in Silvester De Souza arguably the best jockey in the world to enhance the colts chances of victory. Or then back Sana who was beaten by Aggregated and in the Calcutta Derby. She is running prove that she was the victim of a terrible ride that day.
Even if having a flutter is not your idea of fun don’t waste this Sunday afternoon in bed. Sir Winston Churchill summed it up perfectly when he said “There is something about the outside of a horse good for the inside of a man.”