The Gazi Derby

The Gazi Derby, Turkey’s most prestigious horse race, was held for the 95th time last Saturday. The purebred Burgan is the winner of the Gazi Derby.

Thanks to The Champion (2018), the heroes of horse race reached to masses. The story of Halis Karataş and Bold Pilot was worth telling and remembering, who are well-known by even who are not interested in horse race. Bold Pilot, who won the Gazi Derby with a record time of 2.26.22 and won the “Triple Cronw” with the 1996 Men’s Colt Trial, Gazi and Ankara Race victories, thus also won our heart once again. Halis Karataş won over 6,500 runs and he is still the country’s leading jockey after more than 30 years. Also, he was one of the pillars of the movie in terms of both in story as an athlete and his emotional ties to the Bold Pilot’s owner Atman Family. If you have watched the movie, you have already known the rest of the story… Let us continue our sentences with another special story that was written in the hippodrome and has not yet been finalized…

The Gazi Derby has been held in honor of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk since 1927 and it has been the most importance derby in our horse race history. Three old thoroughbred English horses can participate to Gazi Derby in only once in their lives, that’s why, the race has a completely significance for jockeys, trainers, and owners. If you wish, let us take a short trip in the history of the Gazi Derby and take through some crucial points. The legendary jockey Mümin Çılgın, who has won the race nine times between 1960 and 1991, holds the record in this field. With 13 victories, the Eliyeşiller became one of the team that brought the most champions in Gazi. As you know, record level belongs the Bold Pilot. On the other hand, Jockey Ahmet Çelik has made the race a single man show since 2015.

Çelik participated Gazi Race with Smerç for the first time in 2010, then 2012, he could not ride champion Matador Yaşar, however, the luck came back to him in 2015. Beginning with Color, the young jockey won six victories with Graystorm, Piano Sonata, All Together, The Last Romance and Call to Victory, respectively. Before that, Ekrem Kurt hold the record with three derby victories between 1971 and 1973. According to the statistics of Reşat Kösem, horse race historian, Gerhard Streit, who won four “Deutsches Derby” in a row, and Federico Regoli, who won five “Derby Italiano” titles, were also the owners of the worldwide series. Ahmet Çelik had become the owner of an incredible, hard-to-break record with six non-stop Gazi cups. The question was whether he win the seventh championship or not…

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Ahmet Çelik with Gazi cup, 2020 / photo: Kadir Çivici-TJK

I am a very calm person. Sometimes I ask myself that why I was not excited. But my formula for success was to treat even the biggest of the races as if it were just like any race. The slightest worry will cause the split-second mistake that will make you lose the race. You lose in the moment that you ask whether you will win or not,” Ahmet Çelik said in an interview at Socrates in 2018.

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Ahmet Çelik’a a photo from 2020 Gazi Derby / photo: Kadir Çivici-TJK

Çelik participated in the 2021 Gazi Derby with Burgaz -belonging to Sanem Kahraman- and waited for the right moment throughout the race with calm temperament, as always. The duo, Çelik and Burgaz, made the move to catch the Anadolu Aslanı in the last 200 meters and did not look back from this point on. Burgaz won the race with a time of 2.27.37 went down in history and his jockey, who lifted the seventh Gazi trophy, added a new victory to his untouchable record. And all those succeess came in such a short time, between 2015-2021.

As you can guess, the new question is whether Çelik will win in 2022 once again, just like in previous years…