It’s not often that you find corporate honchos, cabbies, chaiwallahs and sweepers under the same roof, each trying his luck to make a quick buck, albeit of different denominations. But that’s the allure of Indian Derby, which was held at the Mahalaxmi Race Course on Sunday.
Away from the sidelines, the derby threw up another surprise. First-timer Super Storm, ridden by English jockey Jimmy Fortune, won the race as well as the prize of Rs1.8 crore. An Acquired Taste had been the bookies’ favourite.
But no one was horsing around. Arjun Singh, an enthusiastic bettor, who sells coffee for a living outside the Royal Western India Turf Club, where the derby was held, placed bets of Rs5,000 during the races, but lost all of them. “I earn around Rs5,000-Rs6,000 in a month. So, I’ve effectively lost a month’s salary. But I bet every year and will continue to do so,” he says with a shrug. Asked how he plans to make up for what he gambled away, he says, with a twinkle in his eyes, “I’ll do something. I’ll probably add more water in my coffee next month.”
Naresh Babu, a civic sweeper, had saved up for months to place his bets at Sunday’s derby. He was luckier than Arjun: he made a profit of Rs500 after putting in Rs1,000 collectively. “I’ve been coming here for 15 years now. I’ve had my share of profits and losses. That’s the derby’s charm,” he explains as he clutches on to a Rs1,000-note.
You’d be forgiven if you assume that horses are the most sought-after here. Bookies rule the roost. They set up individual stalls and talk animatedly on their phones. “We make between Rs25,000 and Rs2 lakh. The bigger bookies can rake up Rs10 lakh,” says a popular bookie.