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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Riding Behind the Scenes

Teams of people work tirelessly through the week to make the horse racing weekends glitzy,glamorous and on the fast track.

Written by Rohan Swamy |
August 20, 2011 2:25:50 am

To an outsider,the racing season is about fashion and glamour,wins and losses. The picture of the exclusive members enclosure with the city’s who’s who cheering for their horses in their fashionable best comes to mind. But what goes unnoticed is the behind-the-scenes work done week after week,by the members,racing officials,administrators and even the groundsmen to ensure smooth-riding races.

“Time is a key factor,” says Pradyumna Singh,Senior Stipendiary Steward,adding,“It all begins with the entry of the horses for the race. For the normal races,the entry date closes one week prior to the race. However for the sweepstake races,the entries close two,three,six months or even one year in advance. These entries have to be made by the owners. For races like the Poonawalla Multi Million,that is held in Mumbai,entries are made two years in advance by the breeders.”

Once the entries are made,the Handicappers come into play. Niranjan Singh,the handicapper at the Pune Race Course,ensures that all the horses running have equal odds of winning. “In the Cole books,there are weights mentioned next to the horses. That is the weight that needs to be carried on the horse during the race. Hence a low placed horse carries less weight,while a favourite will carry more,” explains Singh.

Mahendra Maliya,who has been a race commentator for the last 20 years,says his job brings in excitement to the private stands and other enclosures. “The contest of skills is the main attraction for most people,and we need to build the tempo for that. Also,since the number of horses in the races have increased,we need to keep track of them and call the race accordingly,” he says.

Once the horses are entered and the handicaps set in place,the racing officials start scrutinising each horse. Any bans on the horses or owners for veterinary or disciplinary issues are looked into. “Once that is checked,there is an acceptance day where the horse owners have to either accept or scratch their horses from racing in the race. Once accepted,the horses can only be withdrawn on veterinary grounds,” says Singh.

The race starters come into play post the declaration. “They not only have to call the races,but also give the horse a starting stall certificate. The starters look at various attributes like level jumping for the horses,whether they enter their stalls easily or they need assistance. If further training is required,then the starter tells the trainers to take the horses back for gate practice,” adds Singh.

Even during and after a race,the stewards and honorary stewards are kept busy as they look into discrepancies and malpractice. “At the end of the day,the races are about the money,fun and the non-racing events,but what keeps them going smoothly is that everything,right from the horses’ entries to the end of the race,is done on time,” says Singh.

Another interesting aspect of the races is the race track itself. Vivek Jain,Chariman RWITC,says,“The reason why the Pune Monsoon racing season is considered to be the best is because we have a very well laid out monsoon track that absorbs water and doesn’t make the track slippery for the horses,” he says. The race course has a monsoon track (30mts) and a normal track (45 mts).

Rustom Bharucha,MD of PRA Realty that sponsored the Independence Day Race,says,“Logistics involved in even organising the party and sponsoring the event are huge. The guest list does not just include a member,client or a business associate,but everyone who is associated with the racing fraternity. And since the race itself is one of the oldest regal traditions in the city,there has to be a balance between the old world charm and the fun element associated with it.”

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