Rumours flew thick and fast, more so as the incident occurred on the eve of the Derby. Was trainer Vijay Singh's Derby runner, Alvarada, stabbed—one of the Derby contender's legs was found sliced open, presumably with a sharp weapon—to jinx its chances at the event? Alvarada, owned by Calcutta-based industrialist Deepak Khaitan, was expected to give a tough fight to the favourite, Altimara, who eventually won the race. Nobbling of horses—disabling a race horse, especially with drugs—is not a new phenomenon in Indian racing. But Calcutta had been comparatively free of this scourge. To be sure, the Calcutta Derby has still not been taken over by the race-fixing mafia because the volume of betting here is lower than in centres like Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The track record of the injured horse strengthens suspicions of sabotage. Alvarada was 'quoted' as the second favourite behind Altimara, also owned by Deepak Khaitan. Even a hypothetical second placing could have fetched Alvarada, the winner of the premier Usha Stud Calcutta Oaks event run over a similar distance of 2,400 metres, an amount of over Rs 5 lakh as 'stake' money. Apart from the owner, trainer Singh and leading jockey, C. Alford, who was to have ridden her in the Derby, were the losers as they were almost assured of hefty commissions even for a placing. The incident has sent the club officials into a tizzy. Says rctc ceo & secretary Vineet Verma, "This is the first incident of its kind in the 20 years I have been here. We are shocked."