Bengaluru

Winning gallop into a ‘man’s sport’

Aparna Das Battula’s first big competition was in March last year at Gulfstream Park, Florida, where she was up against some of the best jockeys. She finished third.  

You could say she’s obsessed with speed. Aparna Das Battula (23) has had a flair for fast sports since childhood. From speed skating and roller hockey, this Bangalore girl has emerged to become the first Indian woman jockey to get a U.S. jockey licence.

For a teenage girl who was a national skater and State-level hockey player, becoming a jockey was unthinkable. In fact, Aparna says, she had never really seen a horse from close quarters.

“Had it not been for my dad stumbling upon an announcement on horse riding training when I was in my second year of graduation, I would not have been what I am today,” she told The Hindu.

When she visited the Bangalore Turf Club for the first time to enrol for the horse-riding programme, she was stopped by security officials who asked her to wait until the horses passed by. As she stood there, two horses breezed past her. “This almost made me fall in love with horse racing,” she said.

Memorable start

The first time she ‘rode’ a horse, it took two strides, bucked and threw her off. She landed head-first on the ground.

Recognition as a jockey didn’t come easy for Aparna. Most riders, she claimed, were sceptical, of her abilities because jockeying was not considered a sport for women in the Indian Horse Racing circuit.

“At the North American Racing Academy, Kentucky, U.S., I had the opportunity to work with some of the best trainers during my internship. I worked with ‘Hall of Fame’ trainers Todd Pletcher, Jonathan Sheppard and Kip Elser,” she said.

Aparna’s first big competition was in March last year at Gulfstream Park, Florida, were she was up against some of the best jockeys. She finished third. “That result gave me confidence that I could realise my dream,” she said.

“What people see on the racing tracks is the easiest part of being a jockey. The most stressful part is dealing with the trainers and owners,” she said.

Getting a jockey licence is not an easy task either, said the 23-year-old. “It needs a lot of hard work coupled with luck.”

“I don’t dwell much on the fact that I am the first Indian woman to achieve this because everyone who earns a jockey licence needn’t be successful. An achievement would be if I become a winning jockey,” she said.


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 4:30:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/winning-gallop-into-a-mans-sport/article3670208.ece

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