The Invitation Cup weekend is our annual year end bash where the best of the best face each other. It’s a lot like the Breeders Cup weekend in America or like Dubai World Cup night at Meydan. This year is all the more significant as it’s being hosted by the Madras Race Club, Guindy in Chennai. You can all sing paeans and lie about it to yourselves but you and I know who did this and destroyed one of our best racing centres. It’s a great example of the failings of the Club structure that runs the sport in India. Anyway those dark days are done and we must look forward to Madras Race Club once again taking it’s rightful place in the Indian racing scenario.
In Mr R. Ramakrishnan or as he’s better known to the racing world RK they have just the right man to revive our sport in Tamil Nadu. A seasoned racing administrator and an ex chairman of MRC during its glory days, he knows his marbles and one wishes him the very best in this yeoman endeavour. The Secretary of MRC Dr. SM Karthikeyan is one of the country’s best veterinary minds and every time you sit with him you’ll learn something. Well, he has just the right personality for the job, once he sets his mind on something he’ll go after it with a martial zeal. Just the sort of person MRC needs at a time of rebuilding.
Honestly speaking one doesn’t quite know too many of the brave guys who hung around to train in Chennai. Most of them left town and setup elsewhere because of the sad situation created at their home centre. Padmanabhan, Dhariwal, MB Mangalorkar, Vijay Singh, Irfan Ghatala, Dominic, MP Mahesh are all guys who were originally based in Chennai. Craig Marshall shifted to Macau, David Hill to Hong Kong and most owners left Madras as well. In a twisted way the demise of Madras helped Bangalore Turf Club and Hyderabad Race Club emerge as powerful racing centres in their own right, they used to be feeder centres to Madras, running a summer season at BTC and a Monsoon season at HRC, if I’m not mistaken earlier they all came under the aegis of South India Turf Club with the mecca being Madras.
Ooty which hosts the Spring/Summer season before Bangalore Summer season is set to see a good proper competitive racing season this year. All this is going to benefit the other clubs immensely for example RWITC can close their season earlier and take on off course racing from Ooty and in the bargain reduce their losses somewhat, as terminal as the situation might be. Everything is going to take time and hopefully Indian racing can once again become national in nature unlike the closed door mediocrity encouraging situation it currently is in. It’s about time the Turf Authorities sat down together and understood that overlap of fixtures equals to a waste of resources. They must sit down and make a national fixture list where everyone is accomodated and the off course product is of benefit to all of them. The waste is best illustrated by Hyderabad racing on the Saturday of Indian Derby week when RWITC anyway puts out a quality all sponsored product on the same day.
I as a breeder will always have a special place for Madras in my heart as Dashmesh’s first classic winner Grand Parade was trained by Tych Tyrell for Mr. AC Muthiah in Madras and he won the 1978 South India Derby; he was followed by many of our Dashmesh breds who have won the Blue Riband at Guindy, his full brother Aristocrat, Queen Of The Hills, Chaitanya Ratham, Astronomic and Maximillion all won the Derby. Chaitanya Chakram too started his career in Madras but when racing was banned in Tamil Nadu he and his trainer, the all time great Jaggy Dhariwal became domiciles of Hyderabad.
So, all the best Madras Race Club may you prosper in the years to come. My best wishes to your entire team in hosting a successful Invitation weekend. It’s going to be nostalgic and exhilarating to walk into the gates of Guindy a place where my father and grandfather were regulars. I hope to be back and be back often. Good Luck! Good Luck! Good Luck!