Wonder Filly In The Spotlight, doesn’t cease to amaze. She is the living legend of Indian racing. She has created history not only in picking up Derbies at will, but by winning with a widening margin each time. This only goes to show her undisputed supremacy on the turf – any turf that she has set her sizzling hoofs on! She stands as the highest grosser in stake-money touching a whopping Rs Five Crore mark. She leaves behind top thoroughbreds like Moonlight Romance and Jacqueline in earning and trophies. The rampaging super star now arrives in Pune where she takes on a small field for the McDowell Signature Premier Indian St Leger (Gr 1). She is obviously her owner Capt Jamshed Appoo’s delight and the proud owner was only too happy to discuss her conquests and her future prospects with Mahendra Mallya. Here goes...
What is it like to Own a Super Star like In The Spotlight, who got you the record of being the top stake-winning owner in the history of Indian horseracing?
Jamshed Appoo: I would attribute that to the Almighty. It is God’s grace and I am so grateful to HIM for the immense pleasure I am blessed with of owning In The Spotlight. In The Spotlight has given me continual joy. She has given me everything I wanted to achieve as a race-horse owner.
How do you recall her as a juvenile?
Jamshed Appoo:Oh she nearly succumbed to severe colic. Paddy was abroad. Paddy’s wife Sharmila and I were in great dilemma. The filly was in so much pain and the obvious thing to do was get her operated. Those were very anxious moments and Sharmila was so emotional. We called the doctor and an operation seemed inevitable. We had waited long. Then to our surprise, In The Spotlight just stood up! We were amazed. She just picked herself up. My wife called her a magical horse. We couldn’t believe it! That was nothing short of a miracle. Sharmila gets emotional about it even now. She had been with the filly all through those tough times. This is the one thing that I can never forget about In The Spotlight as a juvenile. She came back from the brink to give me so much pleasure, she was destined to be a champion.
Give us an account of your feelings each time she won you a Classic?
Jamshed Appoo: The thrill of each and every victory is different. Here, I would not say that the first victory was the best or any particular victory for that matter. The adrenalin flow with every success only kept getting higher and her bounds started to get more and more seamless. She handled every task given to her with a great degree of panache. The distance with which she won the top races across all the racing circuits was amazing. She made some really top class horses look ordinary.
What was your innermost reading during the Derby, which incidentally, was her toughest assignment?
Jamshed Appoo: I agree that the McDowell Signature Indian Derby was her toughest assignment, but after her Calcutta Derby win, we were confident she would win. I remember the night she had arrived in Mumbai. It was past midnight and I had personally gone to receive her. When she came out of the float, she looked so impressive that I could not imagine anyone beating her in the Indian Derby. I may sound as though I am talking on hindsight, but honestly, that is the fact. Paddy ensures that his horses travel comfortably. The float had very good ventilation, a false ceiling and good padding around, the works. She did not show even a wee bit of travel fatigue. Her energy and body language as she came out of the float was enough indication that she had arrived, well prepared to take on a new set of quality challengers.
Tell us about engaging Martin and how that partnership began & prospered.
Jamshed Appoo: Paddy got the feeler that Martin Dwyer was keen to ride in India. Since he had ridden for me earlier it was easy to rope him in. Of course it would come with a cost, but I have faith in his abilities so it was well worth the spend. Besides, he would ride for other fellow-owners like Haresh Mehta and a couple others. That proved a good move as Martin and In The Spotlight struck a great partnership. His inputs and Paddy’s care ensured that her rich talent was sharpened to potential. Martin and In The Spotlight combined well and complemented each other perfectly.
She won everything she was asked to and then after all that glorious streak of super successes, came the Maharaja's Cup loss? What went wrong and what was your reaction?
Jamshed Appoo:Oh we were concerned alright, but we were not exactly crestfallen. I figure that she had just a solitary mock race before the Maharaja’s Cup and she was coming after a lay off at that. Also, she was weighing about 15 kilos over her normal winning weight. Obviously, she was nowhere near her best. However, the Bangalore St Leger was the main target. We did believe that she would win the Maharaja’s Cup and at the same time use the race to get into better shape for the Bangalore St Leger. She had done the same thing in Calcutta. She took her Oaks run there for prep for the Cal Derby! So we did what we had done before. I reckon the layoff did her in. We did beat the same Toroloco within a fortnight, didn’t we? The Maharaja's Cup loss was simply shrugged off in two weeks.
What was your camp thinking before the Bangalore St Leger soon after the Maharaja Cup loss and also give us your reaction after.
Jamshed Appoo: I told you we were not unduly alarmed by that loss. Martin Dwyer too felt that we should not read too much into that loss. She felt fine until she led into the straight he had said. After her final gallop before the Leger, Martin came up and said all was well and she was back to her winning form. True to his reading, she beat Toroloco by a good three lengths. Her recent win at Hyderabad (President of India Gold Cup) was extremely impressive. Martin says she feels even better than before. This is such good news!
Your thoughts on her as she prepares for this Sunday’s Indian St Leger?
Jamshed Appoo:A race is never won until past the post. Having said that, I am supremely confident that In The Spotlight is at her best. But as they say, in racing nothing is certain. Frankly, I would be surprised if there would be an upset.
Where does she go from here?
Jamshed Appoo: We have been considering taking her overseas for a while now. We had tried to race her in Istanbul but due to quarantine requirements, we did not get sufficient time. We are in talks with Dubai authorities and this time we are hopeful of racing her there. Martin Dwyer is confident she will do well in a group race abroad. So it sure is a shot worth taking.
What makes her so versatile? Do you attribute any reason for her incredible success?
Jamshed Appoo:I feel she is a natural. She loves the track. Even when on morning work, she is so happy out in the open. She is reluctant to return to the stables. She loves to run, to gallop. She looks around and is keen to soak in the surroundings. That is something extraordinary. Trainer Bezan Chenoy told me that Set Alight was the best filly he has seen to date, but In The Spotlight, he feels is very unusual. She is a freak. I can’t agree more. She puts her heart into her gait. That’s what makes her so special, I reckon.
You don’t own a huge string of horses. However, your strike rate with the few you have owned is remarkable. Is there are a scientific secret behind this success rate or do you think you are plain lucky?
Jamshed Appoo:(Laughs) Plain lucky! God has been kind to me and I will repeatedly acknowledge that. At one time, I owned nearly 70 horses. There is no scientific formula to own a champion (laughs again). There have been many good horses I owned that have given me great pleasure. But one like In The Spotlight comes once in a life time. That she resides in my stables is a matter of ultimate pride and joy.