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Equestrian expert

To succeed in the equestrian world, one must have a genuine passion for horses: Javed Khan

From reviving racing scenes to personal pursuits, here’s a glimpse into the life of a horse trainer with a remarkable journey of 39 years at RCTC

Manisha Maity | Published 24.01.24, 05:36 PM
Javed Khan at RCTC

Javed Khan at RCTC

Photos: Javed Khan

In the heart of Kolkata’s heritage, where thunderous gallops and exuberant cheers can still be heard, horse racing isn’t just a sport It’s an age-old tradition that unfolds a rich narrative of decades gone by, with each tale contributing to the story. At the helm of this racing legacy stands a horse trainer, not merely a guide for the equine athletes but a custodian of tradition and a reservoir of expertise.

My Kolkata sits down for a conversation with Javed Khan, a seasoned horse trainer with a remarkable journey of 39 years at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC). A venerable figure at 61, Javed epitomises the essence of the racing community, where tradition blends with modernity.


Javed Khan’s trajectory — from being an assistant trainer absorbing the wisdom from his mentors to earning his stripes and becoming a licensed trainer — mirrors the journey of the sport itself – one of resilience, dedication, and unwavering passion. As a veteran in the field, he has not only skill but a profound understanding of the unique bond that a trainer shares with his horses. Excerpts:

What sparked your initial interest in training horses and what motivated you to pursue this unconventional profession?

It all began with my parents – they owned horses. My brother was a jockey too. Growing up in this environment, I found myself captivated right from the beginning. After completing my studies, I wanted to explore if I could contribute and that prompted me to jump into the role of a trainer.

Would you like to share any memorable anecdotes or challenges you encountered as an apprentice in the early stages of your career?

We were known as assistant trainers! My parents had horses with Kolkata-based trainer S. Rahmatulla. He suggested I take up a position as an assistant trainer and I spent five years working under him. During this time, I lived in the stables, sharing quarters with the horses. It demanded a great deal of hard work – early mornings, no holidays. I vividly recall walking from Park Street to the RCTC at night when there was no transport, especially during the tumultuous period when Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

Despite the challenges, it was an intriguing experience. I grew stronger, and in the end, it proved worthwhile. I am pleased with the journey that has brought me to where I am today.

How would you describe the evolution of your training techniques and strategies over the years, transitioning from an apprentice to a seasoned professional?

To be honest, when you start off, there’s an initial sense of doubt about everything. Working under someone makes the task easier as your boss provides clear instructions. However, when you obtain your own licence, new challenges emerge, and that’s when you apply what you’ve learnt from your mentor. Every trainer is unique, with individual methods and training approaches. It all revolves around how well you grasp and adapt to the overall strategy.

The fundamental aspect is understanding your horse. Each horse is an individual with distinct traits and the more you fathom your horse, the more successful you become as a trainer.

Tell us about your daily schedule at present…

I arrive at the racecourse at five in the morning, overseeing the horses till 10am. I return again around 3pm and stay until 6-6.30pm.

In the morning, we conduct exercises for the horses on the racetrack. After that, I check on them to ensure everything is taken care of. In the evenings, the focus shifts to monitoring the horses’ progress throughout the day and how they’ve engaged in their daily activities. That pretty much sums up my daily regime.

In the context of Kolkata’s horse racing scene, what unique challenges do the trainers face and how have you personally navigated them throughout your career? Are there aspects of training horses in Kolkata that set it apart from other regions?

Kolkata’s racing centre holds a special place for me, as it’s where everything began 175 years ago. Being a native of Kolkata, it’s a bit more convenient for me, given the influx of participants from other centres. While I have travelled with my horses to places like Hyderabad and Bangalore, my base has predominantly been in Kolkata.

Undoubtedly, challenges are intrinsic to every profession and industry. The key lies in how you perceive and address them. Given my passion for horse racing, which is deeply rooted in my family history, I embraced it as a challenge initially. Over the years, it has become more of a source of pleasure for me rather than a persistent challenge.

Looking back on your career, what achievements or successes are you particularly proud of as a horse trainer? Are there specific horses or races that hold special significance in your professional journey?

Winning classic races, the most graded events of the season, is a common aspiration for everyone in this field. The Fillies Trial Stakes during the monsoons of 2009 and 2016 stand out as highlights of my career.

I take pride in training a few exceptional horses, among them is a favourite named Aerona. Starting from the lowest class, Aerona remarkably ascended to the highest, nearly breaking the season’s record. He secured victory in five races during the season, which was an impressive feat. If he had won the sixth, it would have been an unparalleled achievement. I have a special place in my heart for Aerona — a remarkable horse — now enjoying a well-deserved retirement.

Javed Khan with one of his favourite horses

Javed Khan with one of his favourite horses

For individuals aspiring to become horse trainers, what advice would you give based on your own experiences and the insights you’ve gained? Are there specific qualities or skills that you believe are crucial for success in this profession?

To succeed in this field, one must harbour a genuine passion for horses. If your primary motivation is financial success, it may not be the most rewarding path. The key is a sincere affection for these animals, a desire to be in their company and a genuine love for the equestrian world.

This passion, more than anything else, is what can elevate newcomers to a level of success beyond their initial expectations. It’s an intriguing and dynamic field. Those who join the field driven by love for horses often find it fulfilling, irrespective of external factors like limelight or financial gain.

Do you have specific goals or milestones you’re aiming to achieve this year?

I find myself in the prime of my career with a modest stable of around eight horses, a significant reduction from the 40-50 I used to manage. The pandemic prompted changes in the racing community at RCTC, leading to the removal of many horses due to the high upkeep costs. However, the club is on a positive trajectory now, thanks to the collective efforts of my colleagues in reviving the racing scene.

We are optimistic about the future, anticipating an influx of more horses into the fold. Personally, training is my way of staying engaged, and I’m exploring opportunities within the game itself. That’s my current focus.

Last updated on 24.01.24, 05:36 PM

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