Dhiraj Balgobin is Group Managing Director (Africa & Middle-East) of CORACENT Worldwide. He is also Director at La Vallée de Ferney and Eden group of colleges.
- So Mr Balgobin, when did you fall in love with horses?
I can’t really recall when exactly, but I must have fallen in the pan very early and at the age of 6, I had my first instructor, Mr Vincent Espitalier-Noël. My late father was also an excellent rider and I guess the passion came from him.
- How many days of racing do you attend during any given racing season?
I will say five to six times to attend the Classics but I never miss a Maiden Cup or the International day.
- How do you find the whole atmosphere at the Champ-de-Mars?
Racing is a culture and is known as the sport of kings. I have known the era under Jean Halbwachs and it is nothing to be compared to our present day.
Before, it used to be much more a family outing for horse lovers and this noble sport. Today, it’s more a question of money: not later than last Saturday, it was obvious to see two horses at Rs 6,000 each in the winner enclosure, one of the owners betting Rs 800,000 for Rs 27 million! Guess the nouveaux riches believe they can become richer.
There are so many ongoing issues right now: owners and jockeys being arrested, the public at large questioning the role of the Chief Stipe… It all boils down to betting and big money involved.
- Are racing events improving over the years or are they really getting worse?
Definitely getting better, we are seeing horses of a different class. We have seen in the recent years cracks like Disa leader, Hinterland, Ice Axe, Il Sagiatore, Tales of Bravery…
We should give the devil his due but I assume if the stake money becomes more consequent, it will give better hope to the stables and thus many of them will be on an equal footage.
- What could be done to improve the racing situation in Mauritius?
It is high time that the Mauritius Turf Club (MTC) starts looking at the big picture to attract a much larger crowd, like it used to be in the 70s.
But most important of all is to restore the image of racing, where some still believe they will become millionaire in one or two seasons but I have seen the exact opposite.
Racing and betting are our national sports but it is high time to make the public at large have confidence in the MTC.
- Your fondest memory?
Being the captain of my college team in Form 3: we managed to beat the 3-years reigning champions, the QEC. My late father was really proud, he walked me up one night and said there was a present for me in the yard and that was my first horse, Kernel. A year later, I had my second horse, Fanfare, which had just won The Barbé Cup. Both were in our yard at Helvetia, Moka.
- And the worst?
Losing Fanfare after two years, he contracted a severe colic. I stayed up all night with him in the stable. We left no stone unturned to save him but he didn’t make it.
- If you could be a horse, which one would it be?
A mixture of Mystic snow, King Sweep and Laldheer.
- Do you bet?
When I am at Champ-de-Mars yes, a few hundred rupees on the horses I really fancy. An example would be The Maiden Cup of 2012 with Senor Versace. Even the stable Jockey did not opt for him as his first choice. I was dead sure he would cross that finish line in first position.
- A word to fellow race-goers?
Racing has never made anybody a millionaire, so only bet what you can afford to lose.
- Anything you’d like to add?
It takes me down memory lane, to October 9, 1995. Only one sentence came to my mind for this passionate horse lover and rider SGD: “Le paradis sur Terre se trouve sur le dos de mon cheval.”