The Carribeans love their cricket. In fact, it’s hard to convince them to dream of a career in another sport. After all, they have heroes like Sobers, Worrell, Weekes, Walcott, Garner, Greenidge and Haynes among others to emulate. But none of that mattered to Louis Beuzelin, a French-born Carribean jockey who will ride Agostini at the Indian Derby on Sunday.
Beuzelin, who is based in France, is the youngest jockey in the fray. The 22-year-old finds himself in the spotlight after his stupendous victory with Agostini in the Bangalore Derby last week.
Yes, Beuzelin did play cricket as a boy, but his love for horses made him choose jockeying. “I started show jumping when I was six. At 13, I started riding race horses. Nobody can escape cricket in Barbados but I was more involved with horses,” says Beuzelin who also met a certain Brian Charles Lara recently. “Brian is a great guy,” he says. “He was too keen to hear about jockeys and horses. It was a totally new thing for him,” Beuzelin adds.
From a poor farmer to a wealthy industrialist, everyone goes to the races during the derby season. So how mad are the people about horse racing in Barbados? “It gets crazy. There are 120 races per year in Barbados, 200 in Jamaica and some more in Martinique. The English come over to compete with their horses. I have also seen Carribean horses winning in the US. When I was there, I went to Trinidad on Friday, Jamaica on Saturday and Martinique on Sunday. That was my routine,” says Beuzelin.
According to him, the one factor that sets the Indian Derby apart is the atmosphere. “I think it’s electrifying. The organisers take a lot of effort to keep the crowd engaged with fashion shows and music,” he adds.
So what about the horses? “Many horses running the Indian Derby are bred in Europe. Their quality is at par with the international horses. It is true that Indian-bred horses are a little behind but they gallop really well,” says Beuzelin who has been riding professionally for six years.