Sunday, November 10, 2002



Ever since I was a kid, first time winners fascinated me. I always wanted that the first time a horse runs in my name, he should win. Silver Glow(Riyahi-Petite Aureole) was my first runner on 26th February 1989. Trained by Imtiaz A. Sait, he won the sponsored Classic Impression Trophy.

In April 1999, on one of the last days of the Bombay season, my trainer and friend Narendra Lagad came and sat with me in my box to watch a race. A very well bred filly named La-Bella was running and she ran a dead last. She had never won a race till then. She was by Portroe out of Watt-a-Lott, a full sister to the good juvenile filly Untold Story, from the Carpet Slipper branch of the Simon's Shoes family.  I very casually asked Naren to go and ask the owners if they would sell, as I wanted her for breeding. Naren came back in sometime and informed me that they were willing to sell the filly. After some negotiations with the owner and trainer(who also had some interest in the filly), we bought her for a song.

By the time she came to us, it was already too late for the breeding season. She was to go to Nirmal Ruia's Ruia Stud Farm to be covered by Warrshan. She took time to let down and didn't come into season in time for the covering season. We left here there for a couple of months and brought her back into training to see if we could pick up a race before the end of the year and then send her back to stud as she was still a maiden.

She came back into training in the following Pune season and strangely enough turned out to be the first runner under the Gainsville banner. She was also the first runner I would have with Naren as my trainer. Surprisingly she had worked very well, but we didn't know her habits. She had never won a race. Harish Rathod, Naren's stable jockey who had been working her was chosen to ride the filly who was renamed Vandalism. She comes from the Carpet Slipper branch of the Simon's Shoes family with Vali, Valinksy, etc. very close up in the pedigree. With so many V's, it was only fair to name her Vandalism.

Naren chose the sponsored 7 furlongs Everready Trophy for her. At that point I thought that Naren got over ambitious to run her in a big race. Her final spurt for the race had been very nice. Naren felt she had worked very well and actually had a chance. Hearing this, my hopes went up too. I remember telling Naren that it would mean a great deal and it would be a dream come true if she could win since she was the first runner for Gainsville. That morning, Naren keyed up Rathod and charged him up like he had never done before. In the paddock, apart from the usual instructions, the same words were repeated. He told him how much it would mean to both of us if Vandalism won considering she was my first runner with him and the first for Gainsville. She looked a picture in the paddock. A big dark bay filly, big bright star on the forehead, sheep skin noseband, she looked breathtaking. However, because of her past record, she was totally out of the betting and was available at 80 to1, the longest priced in the field. She jumped out last in a field of 12 runners and trailed the field till the bend. Into the short Pune straight, she was still last and then suddenly, Naren's magic started working. Rathod, who by now was riding her like a man possessed, brought her to the outside and Vandalism flew. Naren jumped out of his box screaming, "go Harish go". Harish I'm sure must have heard his master screaming as Naren's box is close to the track and he was loud…as loud as one can be. She covered the whole field in the straight and at the post she met the favorite Rodeo Star, and the two were locked together. The judge called for a photo. She had finished on the outside so it was even more difficult to judge from the television. I refused to go down to lead till the result was announced. We waited for the result of the photofinish and after a never ending 5 or 7 minutes, the judge announced….Vandalism had won by a short head. It was truly a dream come true.

Gautam Lala