A glorious chapter in the history of Indian horse racing began yesterday at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. Ram Shroff, the man who pursued the dream, and race club chairman, Khushroo Dhunjibhoy had a great reason to celebrate as the country's first night racing programme was faultlessly executed by the Royal Western India Turf Club administration yesterday evening.
All eyes were glued to the giant screen in front of the grand stand that beamed breathtaking images of a fantastic pyrotechnic display taking place in the sky above. The thousands who came to witness history being made at the Mahalaxmi Racetrack applauded the opening ceremony which was a brief but a breathtaking show.
Interestingly, nearly half of the spectators were non regulars, mostly families with children, who cheered the horses and jockeys of the first 'night' race as they left the paddock to go to the starting point at the five-furlong marker.
Horses compete during the first competitive night race at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse on Saturday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
The imposing and majestic stands of the Mahalaxmi Racecourse -- the grandstand as well as the first enclosure -- were filled almost to capacity, with the over-enthusiastic among them spilling onto the lawns, lining up the rails and craning their necks as the horses negotiated the final turn to hit the homestretch.
Interestingly, the first ever night race, the upper division of the Frozone Cup, threw up a shock winner in Mighty Spendour, who came up with a flourish from the sixth position at the 400 meter marker and swept past the fancied trio of Sunshine Heart, Spear Of Trium and Blackbean.
Jockey Dharmendar, who won astride Mighty Splendour, had perhaps not won in years, and even the trainer, Sandeep Manglorkar, who has only a handful of horses under his care, wins with the frequency of rainfall in a desert.
Generally, there is a deathly silence after such a shock result, but the festive mood on this occasion was so genuine that the crowd ignored the hole made in their pocket and cheered the winning connections.
The feature event of the night racing section, the Cambay Tiger Cup, was won by 11-to-2 Extreme Love ridden by A Sandesh and trained by Hormuz J Antia, before the last race under the floodlights brought cheer to the followers of money when Trevor Patel drove public fancy Zarar, trained by Sangramsinh Joshi, to a comfortable victory in the lower division of the Frozone Cup.
Another nine-race card is slated for today, with the last three races to be held under the floodlights.