BENGALURU: Despite the ongoing cricket match, which is a more popular sport in the country, horse racing drew a large and excited crowd. Hosted by The Bangalore Turf Club, the 55th edition of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup was held after five years in Bengaluru on March 4 and 5.
At this event, the best horses and the jockeys from across the country are invited to compete for the cup.
The racing scene is a different world by itself. As you enter, you see people all decked up -- men in formal suits, fixing their ties, and women, in formal western clothes.
There are people from different age groups, a quick sweep of the eye shows 20 to 96 year old, and classes, there are suits and much-used shirts.
There are different spaces for the club members, trainers, owners and visitors to sit and watch the races. You see everyone clutching a booklet that contains the (peculiar) names of these horses such as Hall of Famer, Bold Command, Mickey Mouse and Bold March. They make all the probable calculations and decide whom to bid on. There is a long queue in front of the bidding counters throughout the race.
As the race flags off and jockeys take their ‘monkey crouch’ position, you hear the audience cheering for their favourite horses. An elderly, may be in his 60s, stands and yells “Bold March, C’mmon” until he crosses the finish line before all others. Excited, the better exclaims, “Yes, he won,” and congratulates other supporters.
There is camraderie. Bettors exchange glances and point out how much they have won or how badly they have lost. In the crowd is a man in suit reporting a win over a phone call: “ We got Rs 5 lakh”.
A total of about 105 horses participated on Sunday. Unfortunately, one invitee Above the Rest could not make it to the race as its participation was withdrawn last minute on some veterinary grounds. The invitation cup race saw the participation of 12 horses.
Mahesh Sivananda, a committee member of Bangalore Turf Club, says, “This is the 12th time we hosted the Invitation Cup in Bengaluru. On Sunday, there could have been about 20,000 people.” Speaking about his favourite horses, he says, “All horses are good. They have performed really well. But my favourites are Hall of Famer and Torcrosso.”
A 96-year-old Col P R Rai says he has bid in a small way in the game. “I bid Rs 500 and Rs 1,000.” He has been a member of the club since 1972. He says, “I wish Hall of Famer wins the main cup.” He’s happy that his favourite horse Queen Latifa won the first race.w
Not Just a Game of luck
Ever went to a derby and wondered what is like to get hooked into the sport? People like Ahmed Iqbal Shaik, member of Royal Western India Turf Club, RWITC say it’s one heck of a sport, provided you know how to play it.
Science and Sport
He says, “It’s science and requires skills to learn how to bid. People have misconceptions about the game due to the association with gambling. But if they learn about the racing, different terms associated with it, the classic races and how a trainer improves the abilities on the horse after he is marked by official handicapper (one who gives points to the horse every time it wins a race), it’s not that bad a sport.”
There are many ways by which you decide to bid on a horse, explains Arjun Sajnani, a member of the turf club. “Some go by its looks, speed, stamina and some by the distance it can cover. I decide by its looks and timings.” Horse racing is about 200-year-old sport in India. Presently, there are seven centres in Bengaluru and other metros. Arjun says, “The industry has grown tremendously. The number of racing centres has also increased to accommodate these horses.”
Calling it a sport that gets one hooked, he happily declares, “It was my horse that won the first race. She broke the first record. I was introduced to the sport by my brother-in-law several years ago and I have been hooked ever since.” Races help to keep a horse in tune, he says adding, “Having a horse is also an investment.”But these stakes can be risky too, feels Hajeedhoy, a member of the RWITC. “Anything can happen in races. It’s unpredictable. You either suffer a huge loss or make some money,” he says.
Hajeedhoy’s family has been into horse racing since three generations. The man who is in his 70s, says, “I used to have horses. Now, I don’t keep any. They grew old. Some have won for me and some lost games. After they grow the lucky ones enjoy retirement.”