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Turf's up

Priyanka Joshi  |  Mumbai 

Twenty-two weeks of sport and glamour begin soon in this year’s racing season.

It’s that time of the year when Mumbai’s elite comes out to brandish its hats and designer casuals. It’s called the racing season. This year the advertised prize money is a record Rs 17 crore over 42 days of racing. The actual prize money payout is expected to cross Rs 20 crore, with many races likely to be split into divisions. This is the highest for a single season of racing anywhere in India.

The racing schedule broadly follows the pattern of last year. Every Sunday through the end of March 2011 will feature an event. “Each weekend will be sponsored. In addition to the classics, the sponsored pool has been spread over the older horses and juveniles and to the handicaps as well to ensure an equitable distribution of the significant purse,” says Vivek Jain, chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC), Mumbai.

Indo-German Christmas Fest 5-Dec
Gitanjali Indian 1,000 Guineas 12-Dec
Club’s AGM 18-Dec
Rohan Day and The Mid-Day Cup 26-Dec
Casino Royale Indian 2,000 Guineas 19-Dec
New Year’s Eve Party 31-Dec

Banking on RWITC’s success in hosting the Invitation Cup last season, the club will now host a similar glamour weekend (March 5-6) and has roped in Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd, who have already been on the contributors’ list, to sponsor the Indian Turf Invitation Cup as well as the Stayers Cup. During the same weekend, the Sprinters Cup will be supported by Shapoor Mistry in memory of his star mare Oasis Star, while Ameeta Mehra of Usha Stud Farm will sponsor the Super Mile.

With over 1,000 horses participating in the 22-week season, Jain expects competition to be extremely stiff across all classes of horses and professionals. Among trainers, last year’s champion Pesi Shroff continues to be the favourite to win the title, with close competition from Cooji Katrak. It is also believed that emerging star Dasrath Singh and veteran C Rajendra will have to sweat it out for the jockeys’ championship.

The newest addition to the sponsors’ list is the Tata group. The business house has in the past preferred to stay away from the world of horse racing, despite the dominant role of the elite Parsi community. This time, the Tatas are putting up Rs 50 lakh for the Tata Housing Prive Karl Umrigar Turf Championship that will be run on March 27. Close to Rs 7 crore will be put up by corporate sponsors, while about Rs 2 crore will be contributed by members of RWITC. It is liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s UB Group that has put out a big-ticket prize of Rs 1.5 crore for a single race — the McDowell Signature Indian Derby (Grade 1) — to be run on February 6. The Derby prize money this year is expected to cross Rs 2.5 crore.

So that viewers can stay abreast of things, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) website ( will, for the first time, introduce live streaming (or live relay) of the races. A race will be shown with a few seconds’ delay, but RWITC says this is still “the experimentation phase” and website users may occasionally face viewing difficulties.

RWITC has also decided to channelise social media platforms like Twitter. Jain has volunteered to keep the fraternity updated on club affairs and the sport by tweeting regularly (@vivekjain58 on Twitter). The RWITC marketing group hopes to create a web presence for the RWITC in its own name on Twitter and Facebook by engaging professional expertise.

Sprucing up the Mahalakshmi racecourse, RWITC has brought in state-of-the-art starting gates from Australia that are expected to be operational early next year. The Club is also modernising its CCTV coverage of live racing.

First Published: Sun, November 21 2010. 00:06 IST