Robin Corner (Sr) (June 2000)
There was this horse called "Hard to Say", that always ran "down the field" (which in horse racing lingo means, ending up last). The horse - surprisingly very small and a thoroughbred at that - was bought at an auction and should have been in a riding club instead of making valiant attempts to scorch the turf at the races, even if it was in the lowest of classes. Then one day, it was served an ultimatum "If you don't do well today, you are going to some other home." It would seem that the horse had a fairly good understanding of the English language. With the spectre of losing a home haunting its mind, the horse put it's best foot forward and won the race, astonishing those who had given up on the filly. However, it didn't surprise Robin Corner (Sr), the jockey who rode the horse.
When most kids played with toys in their growing up years, Robin rode horses. "My brother rode and trained horses. I rode horses. My Dad liked horses and even owned one," says Robin, reminded of those days and the immense joy he experienced at the Bangalore Riding Club. Later, he rode in amateur races and as he points out "There was no way at that stage of being an amateur did I ever think I could earn my livelihood riding horses." After passing out from St. Joseph's European High School he went on to St. Joseph's College of Commerce and then he did what he had to do. "It took me a moment to make the switch," chuckles Robin with a smile in support of his decision to become a professional.
From a jockey's point of view it's important to understand two very, very crucial aspects. One is the balance of the jockey. He must make the horse feel as comfortable as possible. And the second would be the hands of the jockey. A jockey should have very soft and sensitive hands. It's the hand that signals everything to the horse, the only contact with the animal being the reigns attached to its mouth. Harsh and rough hands send wrong signals to the animal. And if the horse gets that uncomfortable feeling of a sack of potatoes on its back instead of a lean, lanky and light jockey, you can imagine what it's going to do.
How about the high points of his career? Memorable victories? Robin's achievements have been many. A winner 1982 times, rode 76 classics, a champion jockey in various centers 23 times. Represented India at Perth, Australia and an International race in Istanbul, Turkey, which he went on to win. He cannot single out any specific race that he considers his best. His forte has been to ride under difficult situations, and yet, make it look so easy in the eyes of the spectators. Something he has done quite often. "My graph has always been on top. From day one I've been fighting for championships and have competed against not only the best jockeys but also real horsemen."
Robin retired in the mid-nineties but his passion for the sport he excelled in hasn't faded one bit. Turning down numerous offers after his retirement he preferred to stay in Bangalore, where he's a "behind-the-scene" person now, as a Stipendary Steward with the Bangalore Turf Club. A minor back ailment restricts his riding horses, but he makes up for it by officiating at the races. He spends time with his exceptionally talented family comprising of wife, Priscilla and daughter, Sarah. And makes it a point to watch every hockey match his son, Robin Junior plays in - a tremendous source of motivation for the young and shy lad. Not to be left behind by his family he boasts of having acted in a Kannada movie called "Hats of India" in which he played the role of a judge.
Interestingly, Robin's first winner was a horse called "Chief Justice", trained by his brother, owned by his father and ridden by him. A "Three Corner" attack, shall we say?