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Horse-racing: Pune season begins tomorrow

Pune: The thunder of hooves will return to the Pune racetrack tomorrow. It is bound to sound like music to the ears of race lovers who have been patiently biding their time after getting drunk on the heady wine of night racing in April at Mahalaxmi.

Full house: Packed stands (Governor's Cup day in 1912) at Pune is one feature that is still unchanged after more than 100 years. Every race day during the monsoon season sees a full house even today. RWITC archives
Full house: Packed stands (Governor's Cup day in 1912) at Pune is one feature that is still unchanged after more than 100 years. Every race day during the monsoon season sees a full house even today. RWITC archives 

The Peshwa city boasts of a special, "monsoon" racetrack that was laid in 1995 at a cost of Rs one crore, and that investment seems to have paid many times over as racing has generally continued without a hiccup despite regular, intermittent showers during the races. Pune racing has its own, unique charm. Racing on the track alternates between a laid-back, relaxed style that suddenly transforms into a festive--almost carnival--ambiance on the traditionally important days, beginning with the Independence Day.

The Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has framed a decent prospectus that should give rise to well-filled, competitive cards. The monsoon racing season that begins tomorrow will end on Sunday, October 25, and will feature 27 days of racing action, of which 18 will be the regular race days and nine will be special race days held in aid of charitable institutions. The three most popular race days are scheduled thus: the PRA Independence Million (Sat, Aug 15), the grade 3, SA Poonawalla Multi-Million (Sun, Sep 20) & the grade 1, Nanoli Stud Pune Derby (Sun, Oct 11).

Total stakes money of Rs 9.21 crores will be up for grabs, besides trophies valued at nearly 29 lakhs; and a lion's share of that will go to 3-year old horses. The 3y contingent will be entitled to Rs 2.63 crores reserved exclusively for their age group. Nearly 850 horses under the care of 45 lincensed trainers will vie for the lucrative stakes money, and they will be helped by nearly 60 local jockeys and about 10 visiting jockeys. The monsoon races are assured of quality participation as out of the nearly 250 races that will be run during the season, 192 will be trophy events, lending that touch of prestige to the winning connections who will be felicitated in the paddock after proudly leading in their winners.

In the early part of the season, horses trained by Narendra Lagad, Dallas Todywalla and Malesh Narredu will most likely dominate the results. All top jockeys like A Sandesh, P Trevor, S Zervan and Dashrath Singh will be seen in action, but the one boy who could turn out to be the Pune public's darling is Yash Narredu, the lad who has already announced his arrival into the big league by his in-your-face attitude astride Quasar when the champion horse, on Sunday at Bangalore, virtually put a street between himself and Be Safe, the very horse whose shock defeat in the Invitation Cup at Mumbai had precipitated riots and spoiled the moment of glory for the teenage riding sensation and his father Malesh Narredu.

Dates at a glance

The Pune Monsoon season 2015

July: Thu, 23 & Fri, 24
August: Sat, 1; Sun, 2; Sat, 8; Sun, 9; Sat, 15; Sun, 16; Sat, 22; Sun, 23; Sat, 29 & Sun, 30.
September: Sat, 5; Sun, 6; Sat, 12; Sun, 13; Sat, 19; Sun, 20; Sat, 26 & Sun, 27.
October: Sat, 3; Sat, 10; Sun, 11; Fri, 16, Sat, 17; Sat, 24 & Sun, 25.
(Total: 27 days)

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