NIRMAL K. BETCHOO

Top Mauritian jockey, Nooresh Juglall, passed away late at night on Saturday 15th May, after a bad fall from horse Rule the Night which was a favourite of the main race along with contenders like Kamadeva and Golden Tractor. The champion jockey did not survive and put to ‘shock and awe’ the global community of racegoers.

The picture of Nooresh on Rule the Night prior to the race did not tell anything about what was likely to happen soon afterwards. He was not sick, had no chronic illness and was surely not bound by bad spell. The top horse was well trained and in full form to win the 990-metre race.

The bad thing happened as the 501 kilo (half a ton) horse fell heavily on Nooresh after a severe bumping with Golden Tractor. Benedict Woodworth was injured while Nooresh Juglall went into a coma. Fans and racegoers presumed that he would survive as this has been the case for all riders so far.

Nooresh Juglall was in critical condition and he died after being admitted to a clinic. On WhatsApp, we were constantly being informed of his deteriorating condition and felt distressed as time passed and made the hours of Nooresh shorter and shorter.

Early on Sunday morning, I was notified of his death and recalled how strange and unfair life might be. I have myself witnessed jockeys falling on the tight track and always thought how dangerous it might be at the crossings where horses jump in a flashing second. And the nightmare that some day, something unbearable might take place happened.

Nooresh has left the world and as a racegoer⸺not a punter⸺ I remained quite silent on Sunday. I read all about him on the Internet and solemnly watched the one minute silence by the South African Academy jockeys. The tribute was serene but spellbound in terms of respect for a champion.

Having seen so many champions riding at Champ de Mars since 1970, I have known Lloyd, Hatt, Burke, Albie Smith, Little, Dettori, Soumillon, Teetan and Nooresh amongst others. Top jockeys are ‘hot potato’ dialogues for all turfgoers with gossip that abound regarding their rides.

The Champ de Mars racecourse is always full of sunshine, hopes, smiles, cheers, bursts of sounds, hurly burly when it comes to see horses entering the straight, but so silent and sulky when there is no public…and at rare times so depressing when horses stumble, some being destroyed on the track, in the past, while jockeys being picked up in the ambulance on casualty. But then hearing the loss of a champion makes us think a little deeper.. Behind the glitz and glory, behind the eye-catching and glittering silks, behind the crowd uproar, there might lie an unexpected foe and that is despair.

Nooresh left for abode but his riding style, his magnificent strikes and handsome wins like those on Patrol Officer or Alyaasaat, among so many others, will remain in our common memory. We, racegoers, lovers of horses, admirers of jockeys and the strides of a cortege of  ‘pur-sang’ horses, hopefully treasure Nooresh’s rides forever and share the grief without restraint.