In Pictures: A day at Bangalore Turf Club, ahead of the Derby
We give you a sneak peak of what a typical day is like at The Bangalore Turf Club and also the frontline contenders for the Kingfisher Derby 2011.
As you probably know, all roads will lead to the Bangalore Turf Club on July 10 for the most awaited race of the season, the Kingfisher Derby 2011, one of the richest sporting events and the most sought after prize purse in India. Started in the year 1988, this is the 24th year of the Kingfisher Derby – true to the royal legacy of the sport. As a prelude to the Kingfisher Derby, the organizers arranged a guided tour into the world of race horses inside the Bangalore Turf Club. We got a sneak peak of what goes into making of a winning horse and also see how the trainers prepared their prized horses for the most coveted race of the season.
It was my first visit to the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) and as I walked through the place, I couldn’t help but marvel at its vastness. The sprawling land, well maintained race tracks, numerous stables with Olympian-like equines made for beautiful view. Turf club can accommodate up to 1000 horses and nearly as many grooms. It also has the distinction of having the first underground stable in India. “The stables don't get flooded during rains because of the good drainage system. Each stable house around twenty horses and as of now we have 700 horses stabled here.” explains Manohar of Bangalore Turf Club.
The stables were bustling with activities even at six in the morning. The horses were being groomed, fed and washed before being taken out for a stroll. As we walked through the club, we first stopped at an equine exercise pool which was built in the memory of the horses that lost their lives in a fire catastrophe. Manohar says, “Over 30 horses lost their lives in a fire incident that happened on 25th July 1969 at the Palace Polo Grounds. So this pool was built in their memory. The horses are made to exercise in the pool regularly; it improves their agility and also helps in their training routine.”
The Turf Club has a 2000 metres racing track, and as Manohar explains there are two horse racing seasons in a year; which run through the winter months, the off-season and through the summer months. He says, “The winter season runs from mid November until the beginning of March, with the off season taking over in the first week of March to May. And summer season runs from May to August and both the horse racing calendars hold many significant horse races. The Kingfisher Derby is generally held during the second Sunday of July, every year”
There’s also a veterinary clinic at the Turf Club where horses are treated for common ailments and sometimes even operated for minor injuries. “It is a fully equipped facility; we have x-ray machines, scanners, video endoscope, operation theatre and a recovery room. We treat the horses for ailments and injuries but we don’t train them or chart their feed routine, all that is done by the trainers,” says Dr. B.S. Thimappa, as he shows us the recovery room which is lined with rubber walls.
Talking about the health routine of the horses before the race day, he says,” We do pre-race physical examination, including a lameness examination prior to racing. No horse will be permitted to start if analysis reveals any abnormality.” After being sufficiently enlightened about the horses' routines we moved further towards the stables and happened to meet Imtiaz Sait who ranks among the top most horse trainers in the country.
When someone asked him, if horse racing was all about gambling, he pointed out “Horse racing is neither gaming not gambling. It is a game of skill. It is the speed and stamina of the horse, acquired by training, which matters; jockeys are experts in the art of riding. Between two equally fast horses, a better trained jockey can touch the winning post. Thus the horse-racing is a game where the winning depends substantially on skill. And training plays an equally important part in all of this.”
Also this time, the Derby prize purse boasts of 2.35 crore rupees of which 1.42 crore is earmarked for the winner of the race. Mahendra Mallya, a professional race commentator says, “The stake money is so high because of the last-minute entrants of owners of Severstahl, Lovely Kiss, Pronto Pronto who had to shell out a whopping sixteen lakh rupees each to have a go at the race. Usually the entry fee for the derby begins at Rs. 10,000 and goes up to a few lakhs. But it also depends on the class of the race they want the horses to contest in.”
And as we finally settle down to have breakfast at the canteen in the Turf Club, Mahendra Mallya talks about the frontline contenders, he says, “It’s going to be an open race and you can’t really say what will happen till the end moment. However the top favourites are Dr. Vijay Mallya’s Speed Six, Y.S Srinath’s Pronto Pronto and Suraj Narredu’s Lovely Kiss. Also Mallya is bringing in world-famous Irish jockey CD Hayes to ride his horse.”
List of chosen horses for the race: Lad King, Pronto Pronto, Saratoga Spring, Sever stahl, Silver Springs, Speed Six, Star Magnus, Super Duper, Tiberius, Vijay Keerthi, African Queen, At The Helm, Forever Glory, Lovely Kiss, Magnitude, Nearness Of You, Pre Ordained, Romantique