Our Thoroughbred Owner of the Month, Soli Mehta,is 69 years old. He has been in horse racing for morethan 40 ye ars, but not until very recently has he owne d ahorse capable of taking down the big money in a Stakesrace.
He is originally from Bombay (now known asMumbai). As a child, raised in Karachi, he inherited hisfamily’s passion for the sport. “My grandfather, Dhunjishaw Patel, owned racehorses in India. He started in the early 40s. Even though I wasvery young, I knew a lot about horses. I was living close to the Karachi Racetrack. We would jump over the wall. It was like a wooden fence. If a security guard saw you, he would chase you out..,.
Mehta came to Canada in the I 970s. He was 22 year s old and, a few years later, became an owner. “I bought my first racehorse in 1977,” he recalls. “I claimed it for $3,000 off trainer John Cardella and my trainerw as Norman Bowles. The horse was called Kondro and he did very well for me. The first time he won for me was Opening Day at Greenwood in 1978 with Sandy Hawley riding. He won six or seven races before we lost him.”
For awhile, Mehta owned a horse named Famous Father, whose Equibase statistics indicate that he raced 160 times, winning 21 and hitting the board 54 other times. Mehta also mentions Syndicate Blue, a horse that ran for him in the late 90s.
For most of his involvement in thoroughbred racing, Mehta’s horses have been of the claiming variety, “Last year I had a nice horse called Regal Mark,” he says. “I had to retire him because he hurt himself.”
Mehta and Kevin Attard claimed Regal Mark off Colebrook Farms for $20,000 on July 3, 2016. Less than four weeks later, Regal Mark hit the wire first in a $40,000 claim race, but was disqualified for impeding the second place horse. The gelding would atone for that in his next
five races, winning three with a second and third thrown in. Regal Mark capped that streak by carrying Eurico Rosa da Silva to victory in a 6 furlong allowance race with a purse of$ 47,500.
It was just over a year ago that Mehta and Attard made an astounding claim. The horse was named Starship Jubilee. She had raced eight times with three wins. In her previous race at Gulfstream, Starship Jubilee had triumphed at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf in a Sl6,000 claim race. When the owners put her back in another $16,000 claimer, Mehta and Attard’s radar went off.
“We wondered why the trainer didn’t step her up,” says Mehta. “Kevin was there and he looked at her and he toldme, ‘Let’s get this’. He thought she could go further and she looked as if she had good breeding on grass.”
This is one of those stories that make the sport so appealing.
Attard and Mehta stepped it up for Starship Jubilee and she responded by winning her next five races~ three at Gulfstream and then consecutive victories at Woodbine
In the $175,000 Grade II Nassau Stakes, she paid and then she dead-heated for the win in the $175,000 Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes at 1 1/4 miles. Attard was right – Starship Jubilee did want to go long.
In two snbsequent races, both against the boys , Starship Jubilee finished third and fifth, and then she finished her excellent four year-old season by returning to Gulfstream to win the S150,000 Sunshine Millions Stakes, covering a mile and a sixteenth on the grass in 1:41.03 for Jose Lezcano. In 2017, the filly race 10 times, won five races,earned $262,311 and nailed a 113 Beyer figure.
Actually, it gets even better. Mehta was recently informed by the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association that Starship Jubilee is a winner in two categories for Florida-bred championships – Older Female and Female Turf.
And Mehta could have a great moment in April at the Sovereign Awards because Starship Jubilee is nominated in the Champion Female Turf category and she has a great shot. She won more races and notched a higher Beyer than the two other candidates, Inflexibility and Enstone, but both her rivals eamed more money.
This is Mehta’s first shot at a Sovereign Award, but he would love to get more.
“She turned out to be a Cinderella horse,” he says.
Thanks to Starship Jubilee, Mehta’s interest in thoroughbred racing will get more serious.
“I was barely making money with the cheap ones,” he admits. “We didn’t know this one would turn out to be such a good quality horse. Now I can use the money toget some better ones.”‘
Mehta’s relationship with the Attard family goes back a long way.
“Tino Attard trained Syndicate Blue and numerous other horses for met says Mehta. “Kevin is my friend and partner too.”
Turns out Mehta’s passion for horse racing is doubly exciting for him. He admits he loves to bet on the ponies. “I bet quite a bit,” he says. “I bet every horse of mine.
I play the Pick 4 very aggressively. I blce to bet win, place, and exactors. I once shared a $30,000 cheque from Greenwood. It was a Pick 4. Once I bad a horse that was 15-1 and we didn’t expect him to win and he won. “Mehta’s lifelong experience with horses helps him in the claiming game. He also knows how to put the right jockey in the saddle.
“I use da Silva a lot,” says Mehta. “He usually gives a good ride and I have luck with him. I also use JesseCampbell and Luis Contreras.”
Mehta professionally is an accountan~ though as he moves closer to 70, he says he would like to work less and play the horses more.
Married for 45 years to his wife, Dolly, Mehta has oneson, Kairas Mehta and a daughter-in-law Deina, and that pair have produced four beautiful grandchildren – Maya,11, Sabrina, 8, and twins Cyrus and Luca, each 5 1/2.
And there is no chance horse racing will cease to flow in Soli Mehta’s blood.
“I love it he declares. “I love this game!”