King of the hill

Dhruba Selvaratnam is somewhat of an anomaly in horse racing – he is soft spoken and remains relatively calm and collected in the paddock when watching his team thunder down the track, unlike many others in the industry who loudly and sometimes aggressively, wear their hearts on their sleeves.

This could be, in part, due to the fact that Selvaratnam has been around the proverbial block. His career has taken him to places near and far, glittered with alliances that saw him be a part of the winning team to claim the Pakistan Derby in 1973 with a delightful filly called Fantastic, and the Breeder’s Cup Mile at Belmont Park in 1990 with Royal Academy under the legendary trainer Vincent O’Brien.

It was shortly after his State-side success that Selvaratnam came to the UAE to train for His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – a partnership that has notched up over 1,000 wins, most notably his hat-trick of victories in the Nad Al Sheba Sprint as it was known then – now known as the Dubai Golden Shaheen – in 1993, 1998 and 1999 with Satank, Mudallel and Ramp And Rave respectively. No trainer has since won this race as many times.

“Winning with Ramp And Rave is probably my favourite racing memory here in the UAE. He didn’t have the most promising start that season but burst into form later on. We bought him relatively cheaply in Florida and he more than paid off our investment!”

In a hotly-contested renewal, Ramp And Rave, ridden by jockey Gary Stevens was always in touch with the leaders and clinched his victory by a length after a gap opened between the eventual second and third place-getters.

“November 4th marks the 20th anniversary of my time with Sheikh Ahmed and it has been absolutely brilliant. We initially met in London a couple years before, where we discussed racing in the UAE and I was shown outlining plans for Jebel Ali Racecourse”.

Fast-forward to the present day and Selvaratnam’s honour roll includes a plethora of Listed and Group accolades. Having won the Jebel Ali Sprint and Abu Dhabi Championship a number of times each, he has also recorded victories in the Jebel Ali Stakes, the HH The President’s Cup and the early editions of the first and second rounds of the Al Maktoum Challenge for Thoroughbreds (in 1994 with Red Rainbow and 1997 with Tropicool).

“Meydan was a very big commitment and it has paid off beautifully. To be honest I do prefer the old surface but the Dubai International Racing Carnival continues to attract big names and it seems to be working very well”.

Whilst he says that, at this point, the stable may not have the class to be considered potential Dubai World Cup night contenders, Selvaratnam has his sights set on the Dubai International Racing Carnival, held at Meydan Racecourse.

“We don’t have that many quality horses, but I think we could have a few good chances with Swinging Sixties, Laaarayb, Otaared, Emrooz, Canwinn and Mannjal’.

Having collected his share of pattern races over the years, most recently with Seihali (in the 2007 Jebel Hatta) and Marbush (in the 2006 Burj Nahaar), no one would doubt the ability of the astute Selvaratnam to improve and capitalize on the potential of one or more of his stable charges. His pessimism about Dubai’s biggest night of racing could well be misplaced and perhaps 2011 could be the year for Selvaratnam to return to Dubai World Cup night glory.