Deepak Kakkar migrated from Ferozepur to the United States and kept pursuing his love for horse racing
Almost two decades ago when Deepak Kakkar,fondly called Sonu by his friends,migrated to the United States from Ferozepur (Punjab),never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that moving to the foreign shores would take him nearer to his dreams. From doing odd jobs to make his ends meet to becoming a dentist,and now perhaps the first Indian to have his horse run at the Belmont Stakes,an American Grade I stakes Thoroughbred horse race held every June at Belmont Park in Elmont,New York,Kakkar surely has come a long way from the days when even leading a normal life seemed like a distant dream,let alone indulging in an expensive hobby like horse racing.
For the uninitiated,Belmont Stakes is almost at par with the cricket World Cup or the Olympics,and the race is the third and the final leg of the US Triple Crown,the other two being Kentucky Derby and Preakness. “Being a part of the Belmont Stakes was an experience of a life time for me. I am getting goose bumps even right now while talking about it. Having my horse run that race is as great as it could get in horse racing in the United States. Walking the horse in the Paddock prior to the race in front of thousands of people and,of course,millions world wide on TV,was amazing. It still seems so surreal,” shared Kakkar through an email exchange with the Sportline.
Out of the 12 furlongs,Kakkar’s horse,Unstoppable U,ran neck to neck with other top horses owned by Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum ,the Prince of Dubai,who has a big presence in the horse race business in the United States. Although Unstoppable U did not win the race,those moments are still etched deep in Kakkar’s mind.
“Our horse was the least experienced among all the horses in the race,but he came up with a superb show. It was a great experience for Unstoppable U and all of us,” added Kakkar.
Unstoppable U,a Thoroughbred horse whose mother,Naseem,and father,Exchange Rate,are stakes winner,did not take part in Kentucky Derby and Preakness because Kenneth McPeek,his trainer,thought he was too raw to take part in the physically draining race. But by the time the dates for the Belmonet Stakes were declared,Unstoppable U was ready to trot on the dusty track,and his natural abilities and great running demeanour was all there for everybody to see. “Unstoppable U is born champion. He was bred by my business partner,Shawn Mojallali,in Kentucky. The horse is trained in New York and although the race horses are strictly run by professional jockies,I make it a point to watch him in action,” Kakkar rolled on.
At the moment,Kakkar surely must feel like a king,as horse racing is called the sport of the kings due to its popularity with the aristocrats and royalty of British society.
Born in Ferozepur district of Punjab,riding horses and watching them gallop was nothing new for Kakkar,but owning a Thoroughbred horse and have him run in one of the top horse races in the world surely rake as the dream moments of his life. “Horse racing is a very expensive hobby and I am blessed to be able to afford it,and,most importantly,be a part of it. Being a dentist is my profession,but horse racing is a passion. And I am lucky to experience both of them from the top,” he said.
Way to the top
When the going got tough,dreams were what kept Kakkar from going on. After working multiple minimum paying odd jobs ranging from working at grocery stores to delivering pizza in factories and tutoring to make ends meet,he obtained a lot of scholarships and student loans to pay for his education.
Later,he graduated with a bachelors degree from University of Virginia in 1997 and then went to Medical College of Virginia for dental school. From there,he graduated with a DDS in 2002. Then,he went to the Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for two years to complete a specialty residency training in Pediatrics.
Right now,he has put his horse racing dreams on a hold as Unstoppable U recently had a minor surgery,but in the mean time,when he is free from his work,Kakkar hopes to visit India and watch races in Delhi and Mumbai. “Horse racing is India is always an option that I am looking forward to in the future,” he signed off.