The sweet smell of moist grass and earth wafting up to sunny skies,the sound of horses thundering by and men and women in their Sunday best these are timeless images from horse racing,a tradition that has endured for centuries. But this year,tradition gets a leg-up from technology,as the Pune Race Course wraps up its final preparations for the season that will begin on July 18.
The changes can be spotted right from the entrance,where a new giant screen will live-stream the ongoing races of Pune and other cities,so that visitors can catch up on what’s happening faster. Inside,another large screen along the track will display races in real time,while a third screen by the paddock will give members all the statistical information they need on the horses and jockeys. Until now,we only had a manual board where we would update the scores and statistics. But now the LED screen will automatically update with the latest information. The screens are quite huge; one is 12-and-a-half by seven-and-a-half feet,while the other is 12-and-a-half by 17 feet, says B N Nanjapa,the estate manager at Pune Race Course.
While the large screens may be the most obvious change at the race course,it’s the race tracks which are going through the most significant evolution. The race course has one 50 feet-wide main track and another 27 feet-wide monsoon track. But because Pune’s racing season falls entirely in the monsoon months of July to October,the management has also begun a project to relay the main track and make it monsoon-worthy. Already 600 feet of the main track have been relaid with a specialised mixture of sand,bricks and other material that will allow the rainwater to percolate easily. Relaying the main track as a monsoon track will level the field for the races. That way there will be the same underfoot conditions for everyone. The horses will have better grip on the new track and unless it rains 24×7,there should be no cancellation of the races once the track is completely relaid, says Nanjapa. The remaining 1400 metres however,will be relaid at the end of October,when the racing season ends.
Another invisible but important development this year is the new pipelines in the irrigation system which have replaced pipes as old as 60 to 70 years.
RWITC is also ushering in a new phase this year,with the recently-launched RWITC mobile app. The application will have all the information from our website,as well as live streams of the races. This app is for serious enthusiasts. The app can be used on many platforms Android,iPhone,Blackberry, says Vivek Jain,a member of the managing committee of RWITC. As such,visitors have restricted access to mobile phones at the race course. The application will mostly be of use to those who cannot visit the race course themselves,says Jain.
At the race course,the Members’ Enclosure along the track’s winning post is also being renovated,according to Nanjapa. Earlier,members could not get close to the winning post because that area was barricaded and kept clear for the Judges’ Box. This year,the Judges’ Box,which is over a hundred years old,will be moved to the top,near the private boxes. This way,the judges will have a good view and we can open up the space below for the members to watch the winning moments of the race close up. Everyone gets excited in the final moments of the race,especially when it’s a really close win, he says.