After a gap of three months, racing returns to Western India with the start of the Pune Meeting 2016 on July 28, announced Vivek Jain, Chairman, Media & Marketing Group, Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC).
Jain said it would be a shortened season this year, with 24 days of racing, as against 27 last year. Two weekdays have been exempted in July, and due to Diwali, there would be no racing on the last weekend of October.
In addition, graded and million races are 17, as against 15 last year. The highlight of the season would be the Pune Derby on October 16. The Derby weekend would also feature the most popular Oktoberfest that would be marked by a two-day Beer Fest.
Commenting on the fall in the number of race horses, Jain said, “With the decline in foal crop from 1,902 in 2011 to 1,280 in 2016, the number of horses in Western India have also come down. As of now, there are 1,207 horses in Pune as against 1,333 at the same time last year. This has eased the perennial problem of stables at Pune, and while the fields may be smaller, at least they might be more manageable with less crowd.”
The advertised prize money this year is Rs 8.31 crore as against Rs 9.31 crore in 2015. On a per day average, the stakes are on par with the last season. However, after taking into account divided races and performance bonus, the actual pay-out would be in excess of Rs 11 crore. Continuing with the past, the Club has attracted a host of sponsors to support its racing programme. Total contributions amount to Rs 94.5 lakh compared to last year’s Rs 89.5 lakh.
Jain added, “The last and longest of the Indian classics, The Indian St. Leger, has now returned to its original home base of Pune. A huge festival is being planned along with the mega race. Bangalore has now made its St. Leger open to older horses, as in the UK, and RWITC Stewards would deliberate whether to follow suit or keep the Indian Triple Crown format unchanged.”
As far as infrastructure is concerned, the popular LED screen would once again bring live action just across the track. Besides, a small portion of the second deck of the main Grand Stand would be air-conditioned for owners to use. The existing stand diagonally across the Paddock is now air-conditioned for members and owners to use, and additional seating has been provided to the general public areas. The inner sand track has been refurbished.
“Rainfall has been good and the track is looking verdant green with an appreciable growth in the grass. The monsoon track is expected to ensure that there would be no cancellations due to rain,” Jain said.