Racing world loses a true giant

Tribute : M A M Ramaswamy's achievements go beyond the mere victories his horses piled up

Racing world loses a true giant

In a celebrated and distinguished life, MAM Ramaswamy wore many hats. A prominent member of the ‘The Rajah Family’, the co-founder and chairman of Chettinad Group of Companies, a passionate tennis and polo player in his younger days, parliamentarian, much admired industrialist, respected philanthropist, an efficient sports administrator — the list goes on. What stood out amongst all of them was his status as an owner of race horses.

In an period lasting more than five decades, Ramaswamy’s feats in the racing sphere are simply breathtaking. Owning nearly 1000 horses at a given time for nearly 30 years, 600 ‘Classic’ victories, a major win at every racing venue in the country and a Godfather to a host of top trainers and jockeys, MAM — who passed away last Wednesday — was a larger-than-life personality in the Indian racing fraternity.

There is not a single racing venue in the country that doesn’t hold him in awe. From seasoned trainers born in the 1950s to the upcoming jockeys who have had the luck to ride one from his famed stables, everyone has just praise for a man who knew how to succeed no matter what.

“Legend is too less a word to describe him,” said veteran trainer S Ganapathy, who started his career as a racing manager for Ramaswamy’s stud farm almost 45 years back. “His contribution to horse racing in the country is unmatchable. The things that he has done over the last five decades is staggering.

“Buying horses is an art and MAM perfected that. Walking into a stud farm, MAM could easily separate the good from the bad in a single sight. He had that vision. He could see the potential in a horse that even some of the trainers would not be able to spot. That apart, working with him was such a joy. He would give you all the freedom in the world. If you brought him success, he would give you anything in return. He was such a dear friend to me and I’m too emotional to comment anything.”

Ganapathy, who reached Chennai the moment he heard the sad news, has enjoyed a great relationship with Ramaswamy. It took until 2000 for him to gain his trainers’ licence but after that there has been no looking back for the affable trainer. Having watched the tricks of the trade as a manager for nearly three decades, he has scored 92 ‘Classic’ victories and two international victories with Mystical in Dubai. Add 24 Derby wins, including two at the Indian Derby, Ganapathy is one of Ramaswamy’s most accomplished trainers.

“I’ve known MAM sir since a kid but to get to train his horse was a dream come true,” said Ganapathy’s son Arvind. “I consider myself extremely lucky to have gotten that opportunity. By just watching MAM sir, I’ve learnt a lot. He meant a lot to dad and the racing fraternity as a whole. We all will miss him.”

Another famous personality who owes his success to Ramaswamy is top jockey turned trainer Satish Narredu. Working his way up as an apprentice jockey, Satish rose up the ladder in incredible fashion after Ramaswamy welcomed him into his stables.

Almost fittingly, it was Satish who helped Ramaswamy achieve his biggest dream by clinching a career-defining win in the Indian Derby astride Amazing Bay in 1996. That win was Ramaswamy’s maiden Indian Derby win.

“I believe he almost passed out after watching me win the race!” recalled Satish, who secured 51 Classic wins for his mentor. “He couldn’t believe what had happened. He had waited all his life for that moment and I was so glad that I got it for him. It was just amazing race. I just a rode a perfect race, one of those days when everything goes according to your plans.

“I owe everything in my career to him. He was a Godfather to me. I hit a roadblock with him soon after I turned trainer. I wanted to get back to jockeying as I was just 32 wins short of 1000 which is extremely rare. He got upset with me and didn’t talk to me for 10 years. But on his 80th birthday, he sent me an invite and it was very touching. Earlier this year, another fantastic owner Deepak Khaitan passed away. To lose two great individuals in a single year is a huge loss for racing in the country.”

While success was Ramaswamy’s top priority, he didn’t allow that to come in between when someone was in need. He would instantly write off a cheque without any questions asked and looked after his trainers and jockeys very well.

“He simply didn’t allow you to feel the pressure.
“On race days, he would just tell you to go ride the race that you felt good about. If you win, you were given a princely treatment but you were not ignored in case of a defeat. My brother Mallesh and I’ve had some amazing experiences with him. Words can’t describe the gratitude the Narredus have for Ramasamy.”

Although Ramaswamy has departed, his legacy will continue to live on for generations to come.

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