Something strange and wonderful is going to happen today evening in the city of Mumbai.
After a hot and humid day the summer sun will take a dip into the Arabian sea behind the famed Haji Ali dargah exactly at 6.55 pm, and barely 20 minutes later and only 200 meters across the street, 11 horses and their riders will line up in the starting gates for a historic race.
But they will not jump into the dark because, by that time, the racing strip from the five-furlong marker up to the winning post and beyond would be shining under sparkling floodlights. That race, a five-furlong sprint for class V horses will write a glorious chapter in the history of Indian horse racing--the night racing would, finally, be a reality.
The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has left no stone unturned to usher in what promises to be the game changer for an industry that otherwise has very little hope of survival, besieged as it is on all sides by various problems, most of them of its own making, and the rest caused by an apathetic state government which has burdened it with exorbitant taxes.
As a dress rehearsal, the race club conducted two mock races on Thursday and one on Friday evening, and all of them went off very well. There was some apprehension that horses may shy away from their own shadows caused by the artificial lights, but the jockeys reported they galloped in a normal way.
"I am keeping my fingers crossed," Khushroo N Dhunjibhoy told mid-day yesterday evening after the final mock race got over, "if this experiment is successful, I hope the (state) government will realize this sport's potential both as a tourist attraction as well as a revenue earner, and will seriously reconsider the tax layout."
A nine-race card is slated for the occasion. The first race is scheduled at 4 pm, and the last three races (firstname.lastname@example.org pm, email@example.com pm & firstname.lastname@example.org pm) will be run under the floodlights.
First race at 4.00 pm.
Bejan Bharucha Plate (Class V; 1600m)
Pretty Lights 1, Sindbaad 2, Ibis 3.
Klairon Gold Plate - Div I (For 3y, maidens; 1400m)
Persian Prince 1, Dancing Pretty 2, Fearless Nadia 3.
Night Crown Plate (Class III; 2000m)
Hoshiyaar 1, El Camino 2, Manakel 3.
Cursetjee Dhunjishaw Trophy (Class II; 1400m)
Simply Sweet 1, Staristocrat 2, Himalayan Queen 3.
Klairon Gold Plate - Div II (For 3y, maidens; 1400m)
Vitesse 1, Running Storm 2, Saker 3.
Quest For Cash Plate (For 5y&o, Class IV; 1400m)
Advance To Contact 1, Con Man 2, Shaughnessy 3.
Frozone Cup - Div I (Class V; 1000m)
Blackbean 1, Spear Of Triumph 2, Sunshine Heart 3.
Cambay Tiger Cup (Class III; 1000m)
Dreamz Unlimited 1, Soothsayer 2, Extreme Love 3.
Frozone Cup - Div II (Class V; 1000m)
Fajr 1, Zarar 2, Zafirah 3.
Best bet: None
Good bet: Simply Sweet (4-1)
Chance bet: Advance To Contact (6-5)
Upset: Gaabrrio (1-2)
Super jackpot poo: 4,5,6,7,8,9
Jackpot pool: I - 3,4,5,6,7; II - 5,6,7,8,9
Treble pool: I - 2,3,4; II - 6,7,8; III - 7,8,9
Tanala pool: All races