Rashid Byramji who breathed his last on Saturday,the 29th January, 2022, was a man who became a legend in his lifetime and will remain one forever. Born on Guy Fawkes Day in 1934, he shared a birthday, albeit one year apart, with none other than Lester Piggott. An incredible coincidence and both were masters of their profession.
Rashid was arguably the greatest trainer that India has seen in recent times. He rewrote the record books setting the bar at a mark which is unlikely to be surpassed. In a star-studded career that began in 1956, Rashid stood out like a colossus. Close to 3200 winners; 230 Classics; 10 Indian Derbies (not counting three that were saddled by his assistants) 12 Invitation Cups are statistics that will forever exemplify his brilliance.
He stamped his authority even further by being crowned Champion Trainer no less than 42 times winning 11 Bangalore Summer Championships on the trot.
Rashid Byramji took the art of training thoroughbreds to a different level altogether and no other trainer in the annals of the Indian Turf has made such an incredible impact on the Sport.
Here was a maestro who schooled and produced some of the greatest horses ever. Squanderer, Elusive Pimpernel, Sweet Memories, Commanche, Manitou, Everynsky — the list would make the mind boggle and you’d run out of superlatives to describe them. Each of them was so different from the other and yet each of them champions in their own right. They all had one thing in common and it was called the touch of the Master’s Hand or simply, the Byramji touch.
The one story about him that will remain etched in my mind featured the all-conquering Commanche, who was facing off against a horse named Beauregard, trained by Chandrashekar, in the RWITC Invitational in Bombay. Rashid knew that he was a live threat to Commanche on the terms of the race. Just a couple of days before the race, Beauregard had a problem. Chandra turned to Rashid for help, and Rashid being the person he was, went across and sorted out the issue. In a sport that has cut-throat competition and a ‘dog eat dog’ mentality, how many people would ever have done that?
On the race day, in a duel down the straight, Beauregard pegged back Commanche. Had Rashid not gone across and advised Chandrashekar what to do, Beauregard would probably never have run. Rashid knew that and yet he went out of his way to help another professional. That was the sort of person he was — an incredible human being.
As Shakespeare put it, “His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN.”