07/12/2007 11:00PM

Indian jockey adjusts to Canada


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Jockey Ruzaan Choksey is starting to feel comfortable riding at Hastings and it shouldn't be long before he wins his first race here.

Choksey, 31, had done all of his riding in his home country of India, and because of the differences in the type of racing that takes place there, it has taken him a while to adjust to riding in North America. He arrived here just a few weeks ago and has ridden only nine races.

"First off, they run clockwise in India and it's also all turf racing there," he said. "When I first got here, it was quite different, but now I'm getting pretty used to it."

Choksey also had to adjust to coming out of the starting gate here, and he's quickly getting the hang of it.

"In India, the horses wear neck braces and that's what you grab onto when they come out of the gate," he said. "Here you have to grab onto the horse's mane. It's different, but I'm getting the hang of it."

Choksey has had a successful career as a rider in India. He has won more than 650 races and he said he was the leading apprentice at his home track in Mumbai (Bombay), the Royal Western Indian Turf Club, in 1994.

Choksey began riding horses when he was 13. At 16, he went to a jockey school before he began riding in races in 1993.

"We have a batch of 10 jockeys that they train at a time," he said. "It takes two years of training before you can ride in a race."

Choksey's biggest win in India was in the 1999 Grade 1 Indian Derby aboard Supervite. Actually, Supervite finished second and was later moved up to first when the horse that won the race, Saddle Up, had a positive test.

Choksey has won plenty of graded races in India, and interestingly, a non-graded race he won at Pune in 1999 was the Dance Smartly Plate. Dance Smartly, of course, was a Canadian champion.

It's monsoon season in Mumbai, so the racing shuts down at the Royal Western Turf Club for a few months and shifts to Pune, which is about four hours outside Mumbai. Normally, Choksey would ride there. He changed his plans after talking to Anthony Stephen, a Hastings regular for the past few years, who was riding in India last winter.

"Anthony said it was a nice place to ride and because I was light that I would probably do well here," said Choksey, who tacks about 100 pounds. "Plus, I have friends that live here and they offered me a place to stay."

Choksey comes across as one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. It could have something to do with his religious faith, Zoroastrianism.

According to a report done by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, Zoroastrianism is a small religion of about 140,000 members that was founded by Zarathushra in Persia. It's considered one of the oldest religions in the world and its theology had a great impact on Judaism, Christianity, and other later religions.

"I basically have a strong belief in God," Choksey said.

Choksey, who is hoping to bring his wife, Mehernaaz, and son, Kyros, over from India, also said that his faith would help him remain patient until he starts to ride better horses at Hastings.

Monashee scares away foes

Trainer Tracy McCarthy was disappointed that the Vancouver Sun didn't attract enough horses. The reason the race didn't fill is that Monashee, who is trained by McCarthy, has dominated the older filly and mare division here for the past two years. The trainers and owners of the horses that might have run in the Sun passed when they heard Monashee was going to run despite being assigned 130 pounds. Monashee is owned by Ole Nielsen, who races under the stable name Canmor Farms.

"We had a meeting last night," McCarthy said. "We took a look at all the possible races that she could run in. We haven't made a decision yet."

Retired Canadian Hall of Fame jockey Chris Loseth, who is married to McCarthy, is a big part of the Monashee team.

Trainer Quint McCabe referred to Loseth when he summed up what the connections of the horses that have been chasing Monashee for the past two years felt.

"Monashee could carry Chris around there and still win," he said.

Loseth has enjoyed his retirement and he would certainly be a few pounds over the 130 that Monashee was assigned.

Real Candy targets Cup Distaff

When it was clear that the Sun wasn't going to fill, a race restricted to non-stakes winners in 2007 was offered Sunday and it filled with seven fillies and mares. It runs as the seventh race.

Real Candy, who won the Grade 3 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks last year, is in the field.

Real Candy, who did enter the Sun, will be making just her second start of the year. Her trainer and part-owner, Jean Spence, is hoping to get her headed in the right direction heading into the British Columbia Cup Distaff Aug. 6.

"She's had a few problems," Spence said. "Mostly with her head, though. I'm glad the race filled or I'm not sure where I would have ran her before the Distaff."

Spence was pleased with Real Candy's five-furlong move in 1:00.20 seconds on July 7.

"She seems to be coming around now," Spence said. "I'm just hoping for a good race from her."