Punters, hold your horses!
The 2015 version of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup extravaganza which was first abandoned, then rescheduled and finally called off last Sunday, continued its jinx this Saturday, as piping-hot favourite public fancy Be Safe, trained by Malesh Narredu and ridden by his nephew Suraj, lost the Indian Turf Invitation Cup to Quasar. The crowds went on the rampage, throwing stones and beer bottles at horses and riders, and smashing the windshield of the vintage car that was specially brought in to take the Turf Authority of India (TAI) members to the presentation dais set up on the main racetrack.
This is the second time the public has gone berserk in a short while. Some time ago too, the police had to be called in to the racecourse as the crowds threatened to spill over into the weighing room over a race result.
It is time the crowds matured at the racecourse. While shock, disappointment and anger is common, one has to remember that it boils over into extreme reactions because racing is a sport where the spectator or punter plays through his pocket. His money is at stake, so, the disappointment can be deep and the anger gut-wrenching.
Yet, this is a game of chance more than anything else, so punters need to be prepared. There is a stewards committee that is present to ensure fairness and whatever the negatives, at times, you need to give the jockey and the horse yes, the equine, most importantly the benefit of doubt.
The reaction also proves there is a trust deficit between the people who run the sport and the punters, and the RWITC club needs to look at ways to bridge this gap, justified or unjustified. After all, it is the punter, who puts his wager down, that is the lifeblood of the sport. If one alienates the punter, the sport will be in deep trouble, in danger of dying out altogether.
This incident needs introspection and quick remedial action. Let the club not sit on this but start working now. Punters, meanwhile, need to rein in their ire. After all, racing is a gamble, they need to accept that.