where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2022-01-04 08:22:34  
A Man Who Opened Indian Racing to the World - RIP Anil Mukhi

When I spoke to Anil last night I didn't want to believe it, but my breaking heart told me that it was the last time we would do so. That was confirmed when I saw his son Karun's name flash on my phone this afternoon, writes Jehangir Rustomjee. 


Born in Delhi in October 1947, Anil Mukhi was nearly as old as independent India itself. Popo to most of his friends all over the world was always Anil for me out of respect for our difference in age. He was one of my closest friends and remained so even after we were geographically separated with my move to Bahrain and his to Canada a few years later. It was first phone and fax, then email and SMS and thenWhatsApp that kept us constantly connected. We always made sure to keep each other abreast of our travels to India so we could meet and indulge in our love for fish and racing banter at the legendary Mahesh Lunch Home in the Fort area of Mumbai. Our families did occasionally join us only to be soundly beaten in the talking stakes. Then of course if there was racing, we'd be at the races together. The last time it was at the Invitation Weekend in Kolkata in 2018.


We are getting way ahead of ourselves and need to go back a bit. Anil was a non betting racing enthusiast with a remarkable memory and love for statistics. This resulted in a now defunct annual Indian Turf Statistical Review which was a comprehensive publication of every possible permutation and combination of numerical figures in Indian racing. This was initially done without the help of computers, but Anil quite the whiz was possibly the first to employ the use of one of the first personal computers in India. He first operated out of a tiny, shared office on Veer Nariman Road (Churchgate Street for us oldies) and then slowly expanded to the whole office and a neighboring one across the hallway as he expanded his own business as India's first Bloodstock Agent in the avatar of Indian Turf Services.Anil built a trusty team, which for a few years included myself on airport runs to be an extra hand with the horses that arrived.


Indian Turf Services became India's premier bloodstock agency not merely for the lack of any worthy competition, but due to Anil's canny eye for a good horse and of course his encyclopedic knowledge of pedigrees. I would not be exaggerating in saying that most of India's stud farms large and small have benefited greatly from his acumen and experience in picking a good stallion or mare. Going into details of all the good horses he selected and bought over the years would fill too many pages for this piece. Proven stallions Air Support and Whatsthescript currently at stud in India are just two of the hundreds of good horses imported to India by the then Indian Turf Services and later Galaxy Bloodstock.


On a personal note again, Anil was one of my very first owners when I set out on my own steam. He asked me to go to Yerevada Stud to look at a late developing Kunigal Stud bred filly by the proven producer of speed Tecorno out of In Style. She wasn't very big or imposing, but I liked her attitude and was happy to take her on. Named Enamorados and if memory serves me right, the only horse Anil owned to carry his own colours went to the top of Class II in the competitive sprint division under the care of trainer S.S. Shah as she was transferred to him when I stopped training in India.

Every time she won, I was sent a congratulatory fax never failing to thank me for my efforts in nurturing her in her difficult two-year-old days - that was Anil. His reassured and calming presence was his hallmark; and when he said something in his soft baritone, one needed to listen because it was important, made complete sense and was usually a mini life lesson.


We shared huge mutual respect and so I don't remember us ever exchanging a harsh word. He had that way and it won him admiration and respect in the thoroughbred breeding and racing industry all over the world. In an age of flamboyance and influencers, Anil was an influencer in his own right, yet distinctly old school, always generous with his knowledge and experience.


Though Anil lived abroad, his love for Indian racing and breeding never ever waned and sometimes we'd bemoan the state of the industry or feel irked by an instance or situation. More often than not he would voice his disappointment, which was rarely appreciated. That possibly hurt a lot because his sentiments were from the heart about an industry that had made him what he was.


Anil was a prolific writer and previewed and reviewed racing and breeding all over the world in virtually every racing periodical that has been published in India in his time and of course for this very website. His attention to tiny detail and evocative prose made reading his work a complete experience.


We always watched all the important international races and meetings "together" with at least for the last 9 years WhatsApp on the ready and before that the archaic SMS. His failing health prevented him from watching live the last big meet of the year, The Hong Kong International Races. We didn't even get a chance to dissect it as we so loved to do. It's not going to be the same again for me as I see all the sport now on without him at the other end.


He leaves behind a giant hole to fill in Indian racing and breeding and the place he held in his beautiful family. Anil is survived by his wife the ever vivacious and positive Sreedevi, his sons Rajiv, Karun and Akshay, daughters in law Rupinder and Minsun and granddaughters Ananya and Aisha. We will all miss him dearly in our different ways. Goodbye my friend. Go gently into the night. Au revoir.



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