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Pompous Pakistan Derby fever set to grip Lahore racegoers

February 28, 2013

LAHORE, Feb 28: The most cherished annual turf event of the country’s racing, the Pakistan Derby 2013 to be run at the Lahore racecourse on March 3, will have more contenders than pretenders which has been the rare case in the prestigious event’s 63-year history in the past.

Many among the probable ten four-year-old colts and fillies, still expected to run in the Derby, have had strong finishes in the preparatory races and marvellous track exercises to add to their credibility as real contenders.

This year’s field has a lot of talent as there are at least four super stars in the making and on their current form have an equal chance to click, particularly the four stands out namely Danzero, Raks-e-Hawa, Hidden Pearl and Quos-e-Qaza.

The city at present seems to be gripped with the Derby fever and the quest for picking up the probable winner has already begun in racing circles here.

In the Race Club, stables and the restaurants where race fans, race-horse owners, trainers and lovers of equine sports are sitting, discussions revolve around the probable Derby winner.

A term race for four-year-old colts and fillies the Derby exemplifies elegance and grandeur besides giving an opportunity to breeders to match bloodlines for improving quality breeding.Besides being the most prestigious event, the Derby carries the biggest slice of stake-money. The Derby purse for the winner, the colts and fillies placed second, third and fourth will be rupees one million besides the Cup and a special prize for the breeder for breeding a champion four-year-old.

The Pakistan Derby was instituted in 1947 and since then it has become an event for great horses, great jockeys, owners and trainers. It is also a great event with the pomp, pageantry and splendour that is never seen on any other racing event during the year.

The Pakistan Derby gets its name from the Epsom Derby run at the Epsom Downs in Derbyshire near London and founded by the Lord Derby in 1780 and since then being run as a flat race for three-year-old every year on the first Saturday of the month of June. However, in Pakistan it is a race for four-year-olds.

Before the birth of Pakistan the event was known as the Punjab Derby and according to official record available with the Lahore Race Club (LRC), it was first introduced in 1924 during the British rule and run at the old race club complex on the Gulberg road in the heart of the Punjab’s capital city.

In its chequered history, the Pakistan Derby was first run over 2,000 metres and won by an English owner H O Hay’s Abbot Ray in 1947 ridden by jockey Hunter and trained by Tymon, a trio of Englishmen..

The race distance remained the same till 1954 when another 400 metres were added to bring the distance to international standards that saw Mohammad Aly-owned and Khuda Bux Peshambey-trained filly Seven Seven winning the race under jockey S Laloo.

The Derby was not held in 1978. A year later in 1979 the race was re-introduced with the distance being reduced to 1,600 metres. But it was increased to 2,000 metres in 1980. Since then the Derby has retained the status of the biggest classic race for four-year-old country-bred colts and fillies.

The Derby is a truly unique and colourful occasion combining highly competitive racing, producing the very best racing action with a real taste of day-long festivity of equine sports not seen during the whole racing calendar year. The event also attracts sports fans who otherwise seldom attend races.

The Pakistan Derby during its 63-year history has both sweet and sour memories.

In 1956, the Derby was won by DoDo, but was awarded to Golden Harvest (S Laloo up) on an objection which remains a singular instance in the race history.

Later in 1967, the Derby was run twice. Firstly, on a start declared ‘false’ by the then LRC starter Sardar Yahya Jan as one horse failed to take ‘right’ start while other horses completed the race won by the colt Wasser Matter. Fortunes fluctuated within few minutes when the race was re-run in which the original non-starter Shatir (Trickster) co-owned by S Aamir Haider and poet Nakhshab Jarchavi lived up to his name and won the race.

In another mishap, the filly High Again won the race following the fall of jockey A Hameed from the favourite colt New Market in 1977. Hameed is at present the stipendiary steward of the LRC.

Yet again, as it often happens in racing, an accident involving three horses paved the way for the victory of the filly Millionairess in 1990.

There are owners, trainers and jockeys, who had been longing to win the Derby for once, but luck did not favour them. However, there are lucky ones, who had the honour to win the Derby more than once in their career as owner, trainer and jockey.

Among owners the lucky ones to have won the Derby for more than once were H O Hays, Nawab Mohammad Jamal Khan Leghari, Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari, Sardar Ata Mohammad Khan Leghari, H S Khawaja, Syed Shah Mardan Shah II, Pir Pagara VII, Syed Pervez Hussain Shah, Khalida Yasmeen, Zafar Yousuf Khan, Sohrab Khan, and M Atiq.

Only three women owners had the distinction of winning the Derby. They are Sahibzadi Fareeda Begum, Syeda Abida Hussain and Khalida Yasmeen.

The more fortunate among the trainers to have won the Derby race more than once include Tymon, Shaukat Ali, Captain Jack Fownes, Khuda Bux Peshambey, M.H. Shah, Fateh Khan, Fateh Khan, Mohammad Ashraf, Haji Fazal Hadi, Raja Mohammad Azad, Tauqir Ahmad and Amjad Ali II.

Among the jockeys the feat has been achieved by Faiz Mohammad, S Laloo, Bill Alford, Khadim Hussain, F. Hussain, Christopher Fownes, Memrez, A. Razzaq, R Flatcher, Aamir Pervez, Salahuddin, and Shahid Rehman. Flatcher has the lone distinction of performing a Derby hat-trick.

Trainer Jack Fownes won the Derby seven times, which is a record highest Derby wins by a trainer, owner or a jockey. Mohammad Ashraf is the next to him with five Derby wins and Amjad Ali II follows with three wins.

Many of the owners, trainers and jockeys are not with us today but their names live in the annals of racing.

Lahore Race Club (LRC) has been face-lifted and decorated and LRC chairman Tariq Aziz was supervising the arrangements personally taking round of the club to make the Derby day racing more successful, competitive and enjoyable.

A strong flavour of international bloodlines is the real attraction for race-fans in the Derby Day programme that includes staging of the Queen Elizabeth II, Challenge Cup, a handicap race for four-year-old and above horses including the foreign imported ones, the National Breeders Cup for three-year-old colts and fillies, the Stewards Cup and the LRC Cup.

A notification issued by the LRC on Wednesday said that the LRC chairman, Tariq Aziz and stewards have decided to hold the Pakistan Derby, 2013 on Sunday in a befitting manner for being the most prestigious event of the World of Equine Sports of Pakistan.

All arrangements to make the day’s racing most competitive have been made regarding race-fans seating, race watching to give a superb view of virtually the whole circuit from any of the public enclosures.

Two long distance races run over 2,000 metres and 2,400 metres start almost in front of the grand stands so that the loading up procedure can be seen at close range. A famous band will be in attendance playing lilting tunes throughout the day.