Thank You Bangalore…Calcutta we look forward to 2018! 

Our championship weekend is over and Bangalore Turf Club deserves a pat on their back for a very well organised Invitation week and some really high octane racing. Our Indian Derby winner Hall Of Famer disappointed as the favourite in the Invitation Cup.  Well, that’s racing and sometimes things don’t quite go your way and we live to fight another day. Temerity is a lovely filly and a deserving winner of the championship event in record time. A huge congratulations to her owners Shyam and Amay Ruia of Equus Stud and Berjis Desai. It was great to see Amay beaming in the winner’s circle after the filly’s win I hope he’s as hooked as his dad was when he led in an Invitation Cup winner as a young man with Venus De Milo way back in 1969, co incidentally the first time Bangalore hosted the event.  The enthusiasm that Shyam carries for the sport of racing is awesome and I’ve often seen him come to Bangalore and Hyderabad to see his horses run in ordinary races. We need more people like that in racing, who race for sport and Temerity has hopefully given them a real shot in the arm.
Serjeant At Arms is a really special horse and his win in the Super Mile was breathtaking. His trainer Sulaiman Attaollahi should be lauded for having this horse race at his peak over a period of over 12 months something a lot of people don’t realise is a really tough ask. The Sprinters Cup was a bit of a crapshoot and the draw played a huge part in the result, Adam won the race for the second successive year but there were numerous hard luck stories in the race, shuffle the draw and you’ll get a different result. The Stayers saw another super performance from the handsome Captain Morgan who weaved his way through from last place to beat old man and defending champion Tintinnabulation who was being hailed a winner close home. The spectacle of a long distance race is something else and one wishes there were more contests of stamina in our calendar as they test a jockey’s riding ability as well as a trainer’s ability a lot more than the humdrum Indian racing has become over shorter trips. The supporting events on both days undercard were top class and competitive and we saw top drawer action at every level over the two days.
It’s about time the stakes on offer for the Invitation races went up a notch. This weekend’s races are very high quality and the prize money on offer needs to reflect the same. Thirty Lakhs each to the winners Sprinters, Stayers and Super Mile needs to be at least Fifty Lakhs. To put things in perspective Multitude who flashed home to run a cracking Fourth in the Sprinters would have earned more by staying in Calcutta and picking up the terms event being run there on the 8th of March over Six Furlongs. Similarly the Invitation Cup needs to see a boost in stakes so that it truly stands out as the year end championship race. The TAI’s marquee event cannot be less than half the Indian Derby’s prize money, the optics aren’t right.
I’m quite critical about the lack of fizz around our sport but the Turf Authorities awards evening at the picturesque Bangalore Palace was a superbly organised event. Possibly one of the best ever, top class food and booze and very well choreographed entertainment. The BTC Committee deserves kudos and a pat on their back for the way they went about organising the weekend and I’m sure next year’s hosts Calcutta will realise that the bar has been raised which is good to see, as the boys in the City Of Joy will take on the challenge in the right spirit and give everyone a great time next year at Hastings. On the other end of the spectrum was the Karnataka Racehorse Owner’s Society’s party which yours truly sensibly passed up. I’m what you call a very reluctant (read I want out) contributor to this organisation and I heard some great stories of the goings on at their party and the general misbehaviour of their attendees, hijacking of snack bowls and booze bottles just ain’t on guys. Since the awards were instituted after ages we actually saw the right people being rewarded as the mass rigging that was going on especially in the jockey and trainer categories is hopefully a thing of the past and Trevor and Pesi were deserving Champions and it was refreshing to see them not thanking, “Baaaas.”
On the technical side of the sport it’s good to see the Pattern Race Committee becoming a body which has now started operating in the right way. Soon you will see races being upgraded and downgraded on merit and the quality they represent. A big decision at the Turf Authorities Annual meeting was the setting up of a permanent Secretariat for the TAI under the aegis of veteran racing administrator Nirmal Prasad. This is something that was badly needed as usually one had every club pulling in different directions when faced with a problem but now they will hopefully act in unison in the interest of racing. Another good proposal that was mooted was to increase the distance of the Stayers Cup to two miles, a great idea in my opinion. It’s been five years since the Invitation was opened to older horses and it’s about time we looked at rationalising the arbitrary weight for age scale that has been in use thus far, it’s heavily stacked against older horses and we need to rectify the same.
The times are changing and racing must adapt, we’ve always been a very inward looking sport and it’s about time we started looking outwards. We need to spread out into more states and the image of the sport needs a massive revamp, I was particularly impressed by the UB Group’s attempts at promoting the Indian Derby and how they went about getting many first timers to the races. The attitude that it’s just, “Satta” and the associated griminess needs to go. Stricter policing and more OTBs is the need of the hour to rapidly increase betting turnover. The more our customer trusts the system the more he or she will gamble. Racing is one of the coolest sports to be involved in and one of the most cerebral whether it comes to pedigrees, rearing, training or riding. As I head home the breeding season is in full swing. Hopefully this breeding season one conceives the winner of the 2022 Indian Derby! Yup that’s the time it takes and one wishes more people appreciated that! 


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