Heritage Hotels in India
Heritage Hotels in Rajasthan
Equines provide good draft power and an excellent means of transportation in mountains and hilly terrain in India. India has Six distinct breeds of horses; Kathiawari and Marwari are the horses of north western region used for sports and transport, Spiti and Zainskari as pack animals for high altitude temperate areas of the northern hills and Bhutia and Manipuri ponies of the eastern region as pack and transport animals.
Racing in India is a legacy of the British Raj. Though it is well documented that the British were always serious in the business of efficiently running the Empire, they invariably found time for sport and recreation, and wherever they went, they created the necessary infrastructure for its pursuit.
It must be remembered that in India, the British presence depended for a very long time on its military strength. The armies of the 18th and 19th centuries were cavalry-oriented and the overwhelming involvement with horses inevitably meant that equine sports like fox-hunting, polo, point-to-point racing, steeple chasing and flat-racing were to the fore.
Almost every cantonment in India had a racecourse and race meetings were organized as far back as the 18th century. In fact, the Madras Race Club, which celebrated its bi-centenary in 1978, was founded before the first Derby was run at Epsom.
It was inevitable that some prominent patrons of the British Turf at the time, in particular titled aristocracy and officers of the army, were sent out to India on postings. During their stay in this country, they devoted their leisure time to the establishment and development of racing in India.
Calcutta was the centre of British power in the early days of the Raj and, quite naturally, became the leading turf centre. The institution of The Viceroy's Cup at the Hastings Race Course in Calcutta in 1856 gave further impetus to racing and became an event of tremendous prestige. Lord William Beresford, who served on the Viceroy's staff, won it with his black gelding Camballo in 1881. Myall King gave him three further successes in the race.
Racing in the early days was conducted with cavalry horses, chargers imported from Great Britain and Arabs. As in the formative years of British racing - and especially on account of the kind of horses used - the majority of the more prestigious events were run over long distances.
In the Victorian era, around the turn of the century, the British Raj was getting more and more 'Indianised'. Indians began to find a place in the administrative, industrial and social environment of the country. It was only a matter of time before the local elite began to take an active interest in racing.
The Maharajas were amongst the first Indians to be bitten by the racing-bug and early princely patrons of the Turf included Cooch-Behar, Burdwan, Baroda, Idar, Morvi, Kolhapur, Rajpipla and Mysore. Many of them, as also industrialists like textile tycoon Mathradas Goculdas, extended their interest to the ownership of horses in England.
In the early part of the present century, racing in India received a further boost when two pillars of the British Turf - the Aga Khan and Sir Victor Sassoon - extended their patronage to this country. Thoroughbreds began to be imported on a larger scale. The Army, too, set up its Remount and Breeding stations, using imported stallions for stud purposes, and Thoroughbred breeding in India began to take shape.
From just 40 Thoroughbred foals of indigenous production added to the racing population in 1938, the number rose to 226 by the mid 'forties. The advent of the Second World War saw a substantial reduction in the broodmare strength in England, and many of the mares so disposed off by studs in that country ended up in India, leading to an even further increase in the number of foals bred here.
The racing season of 1942-43 marked a watershed in India racing and breeding and heralded the present era. In that season for the first time, the Indian Classics were run. To begin with, there were only three such events framed - the Indian 1000 Guineas, the Indian 2000 Guineas and the Indian Derby - and all were run at Bombay. In the inaugural year, the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda’s grand filly, Princess Beautiful, won all three classics.
The following year, the Indian Oaks and the Indian St. Leger (run initially as the Governor-General's Cup) were added. Indian racing could be said to have come of age. It needs to be mentioned that from their very inception, the Indian Classics were restricted to horses bred in India, and this restriction continues to this day.
By the late 'forties, the involvement of the British in India was on the wane and though the cantonment racecourses remained, meetings were no longer conducted on many of them and racing came to be concentrated in the metropolitan cities of newly-independent India. Racecourses in places like Baroda and Coimbatore disappeared, although there are "Race Course Roads" still in existence in these towns!
Worse was to follow. The misguided notions of conservative politicians threatened the very existence of the Indian Turf, as gambling was sought to be banned in newly independent India in 1949. A temporary stay of five years was granted for the breeding industry to wind up its affairs.
As a direct consequence, the production of racehorses plummeted and the status of horse racing in India became grave. Fortunately, better counsels prevailed – the role of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in accepting the briefs presented by the National Horse Breeding Society of India was noteworthy. By the mid-fifties, the threat had passed and racing was once again on a sound footing.
The Royal Western India Turf Club Ltd. - responsible for racing at Bombay, Pune and Delhi -, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club which conducted racing at Calcutta and the South India Turf Club which oversaw racing at Madras, Ootacamund, Mysore, Bangalore and Hyderabad, were the independent racing authorities in India in the early 'fifties.
Subsequently, the South India Turf Club split into the Madras Race Club - conducting racing at Madras and Ootacamund, the Bangalore Turf Club Ltd., which regulated the meetings at Bangalore and Mysore, and the Hyderabad Race Club, which conducted its own racing in the Deccan metropolis of Hyderabad. In the late 'seventies, the five independent clubs came together to form a loose federation entitled the "Turf Authorities of India". The organization exists as a joint, consultative forum while retaining the independence of jurisdiction of its constituents.
The pattern of the 5 Indian Classics was followed by other turf clubs and brought about the establishment of "Regional Classics". In 1963, the Indian Turf Invitation Cup (2400 m.) was instituted. Meant to bring together the top representatives of the Classic crop, it was first run at Bombay and then in rotation at Calcutta and Madras. At present, it is run at Bangalore and Hyderabad as well, each centre getting its turn in a 5-year cycle. In 1980, the Sprinters' Cup (1200m.) was added and a year later the Stayers' Cup (3000m.). These events, open to all ages, are conducted at the centre whose turn it is to stage the Invitation Cup.
During the seventies, there was a severe shortage of racehorses. Imports of racehorses were banned, while import of breeding stock was highly restricted. Nevertheless, breeding of racehorses was regarded as a "sunrise industry" and a number of new stud farms sprung up.
In 1982, a committee was formed by the Turf Authorities of India to go into the pattern of racing and after four years of deliberation, the committee formulated its list of "Graded Races". There are, admittedly, several aspects of the pattern that invite critical comment. However, on the positive side, its very establishment represented a welcome start and it is hoped that in due course it will be refined realistically.
The Racing Year
The racing year in India runs from the beginning of November of one year to the end of October of the following year. Two year-olds make their debut in November when the Winter meetings of the major racing centres commence.