The resumption of the annual sale of horses conducted by the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) in Mumbai after 20 years was welcomed with full stands at the Mahalaxmi Race Course on Monday. Owners and trainers from across the country were seen bidding at the auction. Fifty-four horses were auctioned on Monday and the sale will continue on Tuesday.
“I have seen the sales here since I was a child and it is a privilege to be able to bring it back to Mumbai. The mood here is almost the same as it used to be two decades back,” said Milan Luthria, the organiser of the auction. Buyers from Mumbai were particularly excited to have the sale back in their city.
“The response has been really good and people from different parts of the country have come here to bid. With the derby season just gone by, it is good to have the auction here. It should continue to be conducted in Mumbai,” said Gaurav Rampal, an international bloodstock specialist from the city.
An annual sale was being conducted in Pune earlier. At Mahalaxmi, there were many bidders from Chennai, Bangalore, Goa, Kolkata and Hyderabad. While horses can be directly bought from stud farms, sales like these make it easier for people to buy horses in one location. “If not for these sales, we will have to go to stud farms in different parts of the country and buy the horse. Here the breeders bring the horses and we can choose from a large variety. We prefer to buy these horses from the sale as there is more variety and we also get better prices,” said Jasbir Singh, a trainer from the Royal Calcutta Turf Club.
Speaking on the changing pattern of the sale, Luthria said: “Earlier when auctions were conducted here, people would not individually go to the studs and buy the horses. But now they go there around six months before the sale and buy them. An auction is more transparent as all buyers come to one place and bid against each other to buy the horse. It gives everyone a fair chance.”
Most owners were accompanied by their trainers who would help them choose the best horse based on their appearance and pedigree. The bidders first inspect the horses at the stables and then bid for them at the auction.
Maharaja Shri Rajendra Singhji Sahib Bahadur, the head of the erstwhile princely state of Idar, however, said: “The system we followed earlier was better. The buyers would inspect the horses privately at the sales and then buy it. The second round of bringing the horses in the ring can be avoided as it is more time-consuming.”
As the foal would enter the ring, guided by its syce or groomer, all eyes would turn to it. The horses arrive in the stable at least 10 days before and the owners inspect them thoroughly before bidding at the auction. On the first day of the auction, Astonish from Poonawala farm was the most expensive horse. It sold for Rs 28 lakh.
“The horses are bought when they are around two years old so that is easier to train them. For most of the foals, the sale is the first time they are stepping out of stud farms. After the purchase we take them to our cities in horse ambulances, especially used to transport horses,” said J Sebastian, a trainer from Chennai.