By Geoff Lewis
Like a flock of winter birds, they used to all congregate here during the 50's and 60's - Lester Piggott, Bill Rickaby, willy Carson, Eddie Cracknell, Val Faggotter, Taffy Thomas, Wally Sibbritt and of course, Geoff Lewis. Jockeys of truly international class who made Calcutta their home, winter after winter. Geoffs softness for this city and specially for R.C.T.C. is evident from this touching little gem that he has sent us.
Geoff is now happily settled in Surrey, near Epsom, the venue of so many of his valiant deeds.
I feel the time I spent in Calcutta was some of the most educational of my riding life, contributing towards my reaching the standard of jockeyship I hope people thought I achieved. Riding for Jack Goswell was not only informative but also disciplined, which helped considerably towards my future. That era of trainers in Calcutta would have stood the test of time in any other country; Mac Gaulston, Macpherson, Paddy Rylans and of course the Fownes family which laid such a foundation to Calcutta's future, plus many more.
The standard of jockeyship was of the highest level, with the late Billy Rickaby setting such a great example to us all. Eddie Cracknell, Val Faggotter, Brian Taylor, Taffy Thomas and Wally Swinburn, as well as the local riders such as Remedeos and Owen Devaney, all played their part in making Calcutta in my opinion the best and most competitive centre in the whole of India. The course itself I would certainly compare with any in the world as being a real jockey's track, which I think improved my standard of riding.
I had the great pleasure of being associated with as great a gentleman as the Maharajah of Burdwan as well as the Maharajah of Cooch Behar, who was definitely one of the most enjoyble and nicest men a person could ever encounter. So many other great characters, such as Henry Au (whose Chinese food we all enjoyed so much), Bili Moari and Pearson Surita, helped to make it truly a memorable time.
Having ridden quite a few winters in Calcutta, it is very hard to pinpoint any particular race, but I feel my two successes in the Queen Elizabeth Cup aboard Kalied and Mamma's Mink would have to be the highlights.
I Still often think about the annual cricket match of jockeys and trainers aganist the officials when us jockeys used to think it was our one chance to dish out some punishment to the Stewards! - it was a great day.