A great deal has been said about the Suraj Narredu episode. Do I have an opinion? Yes and I would like to contribute to the forum.
I have been in touch with Suraj Narredu. His side of the story tells us what his mindset is. Given his talent and the promise he has shown, one must give proper credence to the stand he took and the explanation he offers about what has happened. I want to be clear that I am not defending his conduct but only trying to present it in a new light.
Sun Salvador, a 3/10 favorite, is beaten. Suraj Narredu is the rider and he objects. He contends that S Zervan, rider of Inspired Move, the winner, cut across sharply and took up Sun Salvador’s ground. Suraj was forced to switch lanes and finished on strongly. The objection is thrown out. Suraj is charged with lodging a frivolous protest. Adding insult to injury, the authorities find Suraj guilty of false/misleading evidence and for improper conduct during the inquiry. A 10,000-rupee fine is levied and jockey Suraj Narredu is stood down for a month and banned from exercising horses.
Now, look at the situation from Suraj’s viewpoint. He is beaten on a piping hot favorite. He alleges interference. Here’s the catch. A video (replay) may not adequately portray the severity or otherwise of the interference. The critical question was whether Sun Salvador clipped the heels or touched the heels of Inspired Move. A rider gets unbalanced and sometimes does not. It depends on how serious the interference is. Again, what a rider sees as interference, may not be seen as interference when the replay is watched. The Stewards did not agree with Suraj’s contention. These are subjective matters.
If Suraj had not objected, is there not the possibility that he would have been accused of being intent to lose on a favorite and not utilize the slim chance he may have had of persuading the judges to see it his way? It is an extremely plausible argument. Suraj failed in his bid.
Responding to repeated questioning about where the contact occurred, Suraj admits that, when speaking one sentence, he was a bit loud. Suraj avers that he was a bit louder than normal while speaking and finishing one sentence.
Here is what Suraj has to say about his demeanor. “I did not argue about any facts. I was not rude to them in any way. No improper language was used.”
Suraj quotes the ‘words’ uttered in the meeting with the Stewards after the last race of the day. “Sir, I’m extremely sorry for what happened today. Considering the objection was ‘live,’ I should have been more careful. You know me and I am not like this. I should not have spoken the way I did. I did not mean to hurt anyone. I apologize for this. I am extremely sorry and I promise this will not happen in future.”
This is how Suraj Narredu explained his position about offering misleading evidence. “Sir, I have stated a fact (incident) that happened to me in the race. It is my duty to report to you what happened. Whether you accept it or not, it is entirely your decision, Sir. Yes, I cannot show you on TV for various reasons especially because of our camera angles how the interference cost me the race. I have not lied to you or given any false evidence.”
We have every right to disagree but there is no denying the fact that Suraj’s story is worth listening to. How often we make determinations about how a race has been run and how often we revise our opinions once we come to know about incidents and facts that were not apparent during the running? In Suraj’s case, he thought he had a point and if there is even the remote chance he could succeed in the judges’ chamber, it is a course of action he must embark upon to serve the interests of the racing public.
One must remember Suraj’s situation. He is the leading rider in India. He is young. He has an international reputation. The world is in front of him. Would he do something that would jeopardize his career, his family and the prestige he has gained? I do not think so. There are impulsive people. Based on my experience with Suraj, he has a solid head on his shoulders, he is pragmatic and deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Does the punishment fit the crime? It will not be proper for me to venture an opinion. The Stewards must have thought that the punishment should be a deterrent. I am sure they believed that their authority was not respected. They have every right to think so. Flouting authority is serious but permit me to say that jockeys have emotions and they react. Suraj was caught off guard.