Bet on Brown? Desis at the Derby

Could betting desi at the Derby make you some money? A news post from Ram mentioned that the recent 137th Kentucky Derby, also known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports with Big Hats Sideshow,” had two jockeys of Jamaican desi descent in the top ten finishers. Rajiv Maragh rode Mucho Macho Man (aka MMM) to a third place finish and a piece of the $2 million purse, and Shaun Bridgmohan rode Santiva to a sixth place finish. So I guess betting on the right brown can make you a little green, or a lot–first place went to another kind of brown more common in the jockey world, John Velazquez riding Animal Kingdom.


Maragh and Bridgmohan’s Derby bios both mention dads who made them complete high school before pursuing the thrilling but inherently risky field of horseracing, a fact probably notable because riders are eligible for a jockey license at age 16. Maragh’s father was a jockey. Bridgmohan, whose brother is also a jockey, is referenced in the lyrics for “Fake Patois” by Das Racist: What you know about Shaun Bridgmohan? First Jamaican in the Kentucky Derby. 

6 thoughts on “Bet on Brown? Desis at the Derby

  1. How do we desi ladies feel about big fancy hats? Does anyone have good pictures of brown strutting some crown? I really had a thing for hats growing up, and in college I even had a little club called the Society of Mad Hatters At Cal (we served iced tea for no good reason, severely discombobulating folks) but it’s one of the sartorial habits for which I’ve picked up some very mild static, because fancy contemporary hats essentially date back to Colonial England, and we were not in the garden party picture then, so some people seem to feel its anachronistic or something. Do South Asians in Britain or the South stay away from the hats or jump right in?

    I still have a couple hats, I like to wear, regardless of what anyone thinks, in particular a little netted number I break out for Film Noir festivals.

    • Interesting questions. I don’t wear them, but maybe I just haven’t found the right one. Netting sounds enticing. There’s a tumblr called Topi that posts a picture each day of browns in hats–it debuted with a portrait of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wearing a dhaka cap. Ok, there isn’t, but I predict one or one like it happening soon. I hadn’t considered the Colonial England angle as much as I had just assumed that the potential and convenience of draping a colorful &/or embroidered duppatta upward for temporary head-covering made hats mostly moot.

  2. Interesting name: Bridgemohan. Ancestors from South India and Bengal brought over/sold to Brits to build bridges in West Indies? Research into Indian slave trade in Guyana, West Indies, Venezuela is still so scarce. Fascinating to come across these names that speak to history.

    • Thanks for the response. I stand corrected. Sounds like Bridgemohan is an anglicized version of Brijmohan.

      The names of Indian slaves in the Caribbean, including Fiji and other British colonies, are fascinating, though. One of main channels for Indian slaves was the Bay of Bengal, where low-castes and Muslims were sold to work in the Indies, and many adopted higher caste names upon leaving Calcutta or arrival in island colonies.

  3. Fajita,

    The Indians that traveled to the Caribbean were not slaves. They were indentured servants. Within the context of Western colonialism, a slave is generally coerced into labour, and constitutes an asset owned by his/her master. An indentured servant is a free person who agrees (almost always voluntarily) to forfeit certain rights for a fixed period of time (generally five years), during which he is obligated to perform labour for an employer in return for payment pay. Granted, indentured labour did fill a vacuum left in the colonial workforce by the emancipation of the black slaves, and there were often abuses of power by employers that infringed the legal rights of indentured labourers and created conditions that have led some scholars such as Dabydeen to compare it to slavery. However, this is hyperbole. There were significant differences. Indian labourers in the Caribbean had more rights than the slaves did, received monetary compensation for labour, and were a voluntary workforce. They freely chose to work in the Caribbean due to the promise of pay that was certainly far more generous than they could make in rural India at the time. (It may be worth noting that though the indentureship program sent Indians to the Caribbean from 1838 to 1913, the migration was concentrated around 1840s and the 1890s, periods that coincide with widespread famine/drought throughout India.) Furthermore, after completing their terms of labour, they tended to be subject to less government discrimination in economical matters (e.g. It was generally easier for an Indian to purchase land than a black.). This was all in accordance to prevailing racial policy in the Caribbean that placed non-white minorities in a position between the privileged whites and oppressed blacks.

    Also, the attempt to adopt a higher caste identity is not as prevalent as many seem to think. Certain, it did occur at times, but if you read works by writers such as Mansingh and Khan, you will see that a) the Indians that migrated were more diverse in caste and included more high-caste persons than many suppose, and b) even the few families that claimed higher caste status were/are known to be pretenders. In addition, the frequency of inter-caste marriages made interest in moving up a caste irrelevant pass one or two generations, especially in light of concerns considered more significant, such as the fear of assimilation and interracial relationships. (In many ways, the entire Indian community became a caste that sought to avoid the pollution of the blacks.)

    I point these facts out since the more recent Indian diaspora seems to have the distorted image that Indians in the Caribbean had to all be untouchables that were forced/tricked into some form of slavery by the British. (Why else would they leave India, especially to work in gasp indentured labour?) Perhaps I am wrong, but I associate these misconceptions with i) ignorance concerning the prevalence of indentureship during the colonial era (among all groups, including the ancestors of many now affluent whites), ii) ignorance about the less negative class connotations indentured servitude would have in the context of the more agrarian and subsistance-based world of the 19th- and early 20th-century, and iii) the disproportionately affluent and high-caste make-up of the more recent diaspora, and the prejudices that accompany such a make-up.

    Regardless, don’t take these comments as too personal. It is more directed to the more recent diaspora as a whole. Also, as it is 3:23am here, sorry for my post not being written as well as it could have been. :)