The Invitation Weekend is upon us and 4 Group one races are up for grabs. It also signals the end of the year as far as our quality racing goes, Hyderabad has already ended their winter season and usually March racing only happens at Malakpet when the Invitation Carnival comes around. The terms and conditions of the Invitation Cup have been tweaked since the 2013 running to allow older horses to run. Timing wise too the Invitation Cup comes at a perfect time, exactly one month after the Indian Derby which gives the 4 year olds ample recovery time. The Turf Authorities get together over the weekend to have a tete a tete regarding all issues pertaining to the sport. Unfortunately the lack of a professional set up has rendered the Turf Authorities of India a pretty useless body which rarely achieves anything as the clubs prefer to follow a system where rule making is their own solo effort. The latest gift the TAI gave us has been that foreign jockeys can no longer ride freelance in India, as a result anybody who wants Jimmy Fortune to ride their horse must sell a benami share to his retainer, Manjri Stud. Thank you old men for making racing about everything else but racing!
One of the most burning issues that has been causing havoc among the trainers is the lack of a proper uniform medication policy. Most of the time its Russian roulette for the trainers as nobody has established proper lead times for therapeutic medications and trainers are left groping in the dark due to a lack of information provided. Unfortunately the majority of vets practising at the various clubs are truly mediocre men whose jobs are more about pen pushing and egos rather than enlightened men who may actually bring clarity into the system. The TAI has decided to follow the very sanitary sounding, “Zero Tolerance” policy which is utopian and impractical, in every way. Take an example of a horse that spikes a temperature, most docs would prescribe Novalgin to bring the fever down. Now, when you have a zero tolerance policy does it mean that you have to use only, “Thandi Pattis” and herbs to sort it out rather than use a prescription medication. There needs to be a proper study undertaken regarding lead times and the findings need to be made available in the public domain so that professionals can make educated calls regarding their use. One hopes some headway is made in this regard because it isn’t doing the image of racing any good.
The fact that Indian racing hasn’t kept up with the times is there for all to see, the fact that we still entertain the concept of bookmakers show how far up their arses Indian racing administrators heads are. I have written time and again regarding the scourge that is bookmaking and how a tote monopoly is the only way to go if we are to get our sport out of the rut that it is in. Why is it that we go to places like Hong Kong and Japan and get impressed with their set ups and yet not understand what sets them apart from our racing is the fact that they have vertical and horizontal control of every buck wagered on their sport. As a result they contribute heavily to their economies and are appreciated by their governments since they bring in sacks of dosh for the government to add to their budgets and welfare schemes. We on the other hand go to our governments like beggars rather than economic contributors because as yet our contribution isn’t large enough to turn their heads. In the 1980s men like PG Belliappa at BTC and RM “Madhu” Reddy at HRC saw that we needed to amp up our tote in order for racing to prosper, they were able to lobby with their state governments and get a better tax structure in place in order to spiral their totalisators upwards and increase the club’s as well as the governments’ take by driving the retail punter towards the tote machines rather than towards the satchel men. Its about time we bit the bullet and told bookies to F Off!
In the 80s the USA faced a problem whereby their racing didn’t have a properly defined end of season championship in place, this caused many of their forward thinking men in the sport to conceptualise the Breeders Cup http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeders’_Cup People like John Gaines and DG Van Clief among others created the “Breeders Cup” whereby breeders nominated their stallions to the Breeders Cup and then nominated their foals for a set fee to create a big fat corpus fund which was then used to augment stakes races at various tracks all over the nation. The first Breeders Cup was run at Hollywood Park in 1984. They ended the year with high quality racing concentrated on one day where every division was represented and champions were crowned in these year end divisional championship races. The biggest and richest race was the all aged championship race the “Breeders Cup Classic” which was quite similar to our Indian Turf Invitation Cup. This still is the richest race in USA though the Breeders Cup has evolved over a period of time into a two day event and many additions have been made in the races, with more divisions being added to the original ones on both dirt and turf. The year long program where Breeders Cup money was added to specific stakes races was scrapped too. A big day to end the year would help us crown our year end champions too without having to work out some concocted formula.
Say we were to create a Breeders Cup type of program in India too where we distributed 10 Crores on one big huge race day, the biggest day of Indian racing. With races for Sprinters, Milers, Stayers, Juveniles and the jewel in the crown being the Invitation Cup. This would help greatly as older horses in every division would be able to target a big pot of cash towards the end of the year. Every club could have a programme that dove-tails into this one day of racing. A proper marketing company could be drafted in to market the race day on a national basis with a TV contract and nationwide coverage in the press as a result of which it would become worthwhile for a big sponsor. The Poonawalla Breeders Multi Million is already half way there, where breeders nominate yearlings to the race and then the owners who buy them have the option to continue paying forfeits and finally run in the big juvenile event. A proper funding mechanism will need to be worked out off course with a per foal subscription, a per stallion subscription as well as contributions from the turf clubs and from a long term sponsor. The Arc weekend in France and the QIPCO Campions day in England are similar to the Breeders Cup. Our sport needs visibility and exposure unfortunately our clubs have failed on that front as racing has been slowly losing its glamour quotient. There was a time when to own a racehorse was a cool thing to do, we need to work hard to make racing cool again.