The thrill of galloping horses,the sight of pretty ladies dressed in bow-ties and hats,and the nonchalant betting the seasons biggest race,the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby,to be held today evening promises all this and more.
The Derby at Pune was first run on Sunday,October 7,1984 as The Splendour Deluxe Pune Derby. The inaugural one was won by Prudential Champ,a horse owned by Cyrus S Poonawalla,Z S Poonawalla,Solomon F Sopher and Kumar R Dalal. In 1987 it got Grade 2 status and was won by Kir Royale,which was owned by industrialist Vijay Mallya and his wife and Major P K Mehra,in a record time of two minutes and 64 seconds. In 1989,it got Grade 1 status and was won by Desert Warrior,which was owned by Mrs R B Jain.
Evolving over the years,the Pune Derby has donned a chic avatar in the last five years,being celebrated along with the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce as the citys most sought after Oktoberfest celebrations. Vivek Jain,chairman,media and marketing committee,Royal Western India Turf Club Ltd (RWITC) says,Earlier,it was just another race. Now,it is the race; not only to see,but to be seen at.
Peter Deubet of the Indo German Chamber of Commerce (IGCC) says over six million people gather in Munich,Germany,annually during the Oktoberfest to drink,dance and make merry. The Oktoberfest and the Derby weekend coinciding provide a unique opportunity to bring German culture to Pune. The IGCC has been in India for over 57 years. As we promote trade and exchange between the two countries,we realise that cultural give-and-take also plays a very important role in the process, says Deubet,adding,Along with great food and beer,we always bring a traditional German band to add to the seasons flavour. This year,the German band,Die Sulmtaler will be performing at derby weekend.
As the bands strum out popular German numbers,folk music,marches and polkas,patrons at the race course get to bond over mugs of authentic German beer. Typically,as the evening winds down,the music becomes louder and more and more people begin to sing,linking arms and swinging beer mugs from side to side,some standing and swaying and dancing on benches or tables. Before each break,it is a German tradition to offer ein prost der gemütlichkeit,(a toast to contentment).
Deubet says while they expected over 1,000-1,200 visitors to partake in the festivities on Saturday,the number is bound to be even larger on Sunday. He adds,in jest,that the festivities might soon spill on to the Army cantonment and that one might spot patrons partying with the good Army folk.
Ravish Arora,director of Inn Venue Hospitality Management Pvt Ltd,whose firm has been handling food and beverages during the races,says that the food during a regular race is generally served under two heads the snacks and starters served before the races and the high tea served after. The derby weekend is almost entirely dominated by German food. People are in the mood for imported sausages,Sauerkraut,mashed potatoes,apple strudel and the like along with beer,of course. It is the thing to do,at the derby weekend, says Arora,with a laugh.
As the racing season draws to a conclusion at the end of October,it might just be time to brush up on your German and head to the races to participate in the festivities of the beer season.