More than 200 years ago, horse racing in India first appeared. The nation’s first racetrack was constructed in Madras in 1777, during the time the sport first gained popularity there. India currently has a robust racing and breeding industry, with six different racing authorities in charge of nine different racetracks. Five significant races that have gained popularity in India include the Indian 1000 and 2000, the Indian St. Leger, the Indian Derby, and the Indian Oaks.
Only Mumbai and Pune are the venues for these much-anticipated events, drawing passionate followers of Indian horse racing to these cities year after year. Keep in mind that only racehorses bred in India are eligible to participate in Indian racing. The country has a well-established breeding industry and imports stallions from all around the world. To have accurate records of thoroughbred breeding in India, the Indian Stud Book continually keeps track of all breeding activities.
The origin of horse racing in India:
The horse was not a common animal in India in the past. This changed, though, when horse-laden Persian ships arrived in India. The Indian kingdom required horses and horse riders to defend their land against neighboring nations with powerful cavalry, which is why this incident took place. India has been home to horse racing for 200 years. Like football and cricket, this sport was developed during the British colonial era. In India, this sport’s inaugural competition took place at Guindy, Madras (today’s Chennai), in 1777.
1. India’s first derby:
The first Indian Derby was held in 1943 at Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai, and Princess Beautiful won the race. The Australian jockey Edgar Britt was riding a colt whose owner was an Indian known as the Maharaja of Baroda. Kheem Singh is the first Indian jockey to win the Indian Derby, ending the lengthy winning record of only foreign jockeys that had started in 1943. He sat atop Balaam, a stallion.
2. Betting on horse races in the early days:
As the sport gained popularity and more races were held around India, horse racing betting began to emerge. Only the bookmakers took bets on horse races in 1912. The presidency’s government outlawed all bookies from the nation, paving the door for the tote monopoly, a new form of wagering. The average individual was able to wager on this kind of sport thanks to this technique.
3. The tote system of horse race betting:
The majority of the totalisators used in the tote system of wagering were controlled by the club. In this approach, the dividends are determined based on the amount wagered rather than the odds being offered. The automatic totalizator company in Australia created the tote system, which started to function electronically in 1925.
This kind of tote betting, known as the jackpot pool, was extensively used and quickly rose to popularity, drawing a larger crowd to the racetrack. At the time, the jackpot pool was quite profitable and tax-free, unlike today. Since gambling in India is subject to a 28% Goods and Services Tax (GST), this sport now loses a significant amount of money.
Turf Clubs of horse racing in India:
The Turf Clubs of horse racing in India are illustrious institutions that supervise and control the activity in various parts of the nation. These groups, which include elite members, fans, and professionals, look after racetracks, plan events, uphold the law, and encourage the expansion of horse racing.
They offer a venue for both classic and contemporary styles of this equestrian sport, greatly adding to India’s racing heritage. They have a rich history and vibrant culture. These Turf Clubs are crucial in maintaining the thrill and attraction of horse racing within the Indian athletic environment thanks to their diligent management.
1. Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC)
Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) conducts racing in Mumbai from November to May and in Pune from July to November. Through the help of Dorabji Rustomji of Bombay, Sir Charles Forbes, G Hall, A Campbell, and P Haddow founded the Bombay Turf Club in Byculla grounds in 1800. The Club turned the marshy area into a racecourse.
The clubhouse’s balcony served as the lone private stand for the honorable Members in the beginning. Soon, the Western India Turf Club took its place. One year after the conclusion of the Last Anglo-Maratha War and the Peshwa’s rule, the first horse race was staged at Pune in 1819, with a 100-guinea cup presented by the British Resident and later Governor of Bombay, the Hon. Mr. Mountstuart Elphinstone, as the prize. Mahalaxmi’s racing track is oval-shaped with a 2,400-meter (7,900-foot) straight chute and is situated on about 225 acres (0.91 km2; 0.352 sq mi) of open ground in a prestigious district of Mumbai.
2. Bangalore Turf Club
Bangalore Turf Club conducts racing at Bangalore in two distinct seasons – in summer from May to August and in winter from November to April. Horse racing might have started at Bangalore, which Kepe Gowda built 150 years earlier, in 1537, but wars between Indian rulers made it difficult to promote equestrian activities. A different issue was that suitable horses weren’t available.
The native “country-bred” pony, according to Brigadier General Sir Ormonde Winter, was tough but unfit for racing. The temperature in Bangalore was ideal for raising cavalry horses, and the Mysore cavalry had rows of stables in the areas that are today known as Kalasipalayam and Parvathipuram on the outskirts of Bangalore. Four stewards took the initiative to start the Bangalore Turf Club on December 1st, 1920. Major R.H.O.D Paterson, Major J.M. Holmes, Sir Leslie Miller, and C.N Suryanarain Row.
3. Hyderabad Turf Club
Hyderabad Turf Club conducts racing in Hyderabad where racing is held on the Monsoon Track from July until the end of October and on the Winter Track from November until February.Hyderabad usually races on Sundays and Mondays. In Hyderabad, horse racing was first introduced in 1868 at Moula-Ali by Nizam Asaf Jah VI.
Previously known as the Deccan races and then the Hyderabad races, the racecourse was moved to Malakpet by H.H. Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, Nizam VI, in 1886 so that it would be close to his palace. When the racing was reintroduced by Hyderabad Race Club in 1968, the organization’s operations were moved from Secunderabad to Malakpet.
4. Royal Calcutta Turf Club, Kolkata
Royal Calcutta Turf Club, Kolkata conducts racing in Kolkata, with a main winter season from November to April and a monsoon season that runs from July until mid-October. The Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC), established in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1847, rose to prominence as India’s leading horse racing organization during the British Raj. It developed and became the sport’s regulatory body, establishing and enforcing the regulations for practically all courses in the subcontinent.
The races it organized, which were inaugurated by the Viceroy of India, were thought to be among the most well-attended social events on the calendar during the height of colonial control, even after the Crown took up direct administration. The club ran the largest sweepstakes in the world in the 1930s, the Calcutta Derby Sweeps. The Kolkata Race Course is still run by this privileged private club today.
5. Delhi Turf Club
Delhi Turf Club conducts racing at India’s capital usually once a week from August until May, where racing is run under the patronage of RWITC. It was established in 1940.
6. Madras Turf Club
Madras Turf Club races are conducted in the winter season at the main facility at Guindy and in the spring/summer season at the hill station of Ooty, Nilgiri Hills. The first ever horse race was held at Madras race course in 1780. At that time Madras was a Presidency.
Even though it may not be the most popular activity in India, horse racing has a long history and significant historical significance. Statistics indicate that the business will continue to produce one of the largest gaming incomes in the nation. India features a number of traditional horse races that are comparable to those in Britain.