ADVERTISED record stakes money of Rs 15 crore that may actually cross the 20-crore mark, 1,300 racehorses , 46 trainers who will compete with another 20 coming in from other centers for the graded races, and nearly 80 riding professionals including foreign jockeys who will land here to ride for the big owners -- that, in a nutshell, gives idea of what to expect from the 2011-12 Mumbai racing season which will get underway this Sunday, November 13, at the Mahalaxmi racetrack.

Indian Derby at the Mahalaxmi race course in June this year.

There is some concern in the air about the number of foreign riders being on the lower side, as Indian riders who have taken a consistent stand for some time now against what they allege as a 'favourable' treatment to their fair-skinned counterparts who win a lion's share of stakes money thanks to big race successes, are up in arms against the authorities. "I have heard there are some issues related to visa and work permit," RWITC Chairman Vivek Jain said at the press meet organised at the Mahalaxmi lawns on Thursday evening as a curtain-raiser, "but competitive spirit is the essence of this sport, and I hope things will ease out. We will take call on the matter at the right time."

The biggest racing season in the country will strech over five-and-a-half months, starting this Sunday (Nov 13, 2011) and ending on the last Sunday of April next year (April 29), and will consist 44 race days. The four Indian Classics, all grade 1 races--the Indian 1000 Guineas (Dec 11), Indian 2000 Guineas (Dec 18), Indian Oaks (Jan 22) & the Indian Derby (Feb 5)--will be the main highlights of the season, supported by other major events like the Poonawalla Breeders Multi-Million (Feb 26), Eclipse Stakes Of India (Feb 12), C N Wadia Gold Cup (March 11), Colts & Fillies Juvenile Championship races (March 18) & the Karl Umrigar Turf Championship (March 25), besides a record 23 races for non-Classic horses which will feature minimum stakes of million rupees.

A special "million" race has been introduced in memory of the late gazal maestro Jagjit Singh, a horse owner and race lover who was also a prominent club member, and it will be restricted to small horse owners. Christened as Dr Jagjit Singh Tribute Million, the race is slated for Sunday, February 19, 2012.

Live streaming (webcast) of all races, a popular feature introduced by the club last year, will continue through the official RWITC website. So race lovers who may not be able to attend the actual races can enjoy the same on their computer screens ( from the comfort of their homes. A new electronic publication, created by Sanjay Shah of the RWITC marketing team, titled "Hoof Print", is being launched as e-newsletter that will be mailed to members and patrons who wish to keep track of the developments in racing in western India.

The opening day's card tomorrow has eight races, and the first race is scheduled at 2 pm. However, if you wish to visit the elite enclosure (reserved for members) then remember the dress code that was relaxed for some years will be in force again. Make sure you are properly attired. The acceptable dress code, as it used to be printed many years ago in the club advertisement, read thus: Gentlemen can wear full-sleeve shirt with tie, with or without jacket, or national dress. Ladies may wear anything except beachwear.

New to racing? Don't worry.

Help is now at hand. RWITC, in a unique initiative, will offer special coaching to anyone who aspires to learn racing and handicapping, or desires to upgrade his/her knowledge about this most thrilling sport. Basic courses of one-hour duration will be offered absolutely free every Sunday morning at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. MiD DAY takes its media partnership with the race club to a new level with this venture as Prakash Gosavi, our racing correspondent, will conduct these free courses. To enroll, call Mahalaxmi racecourse (23071396) between 10 am & 5 pm.

The Dates
November 2011:
Sun, 13th; Thu, 17th; Sun, 20th; Thu, 24th.
December 2011: Thu, 1st; Sun, 4th; Sun, 11th; Thu, 15th; Sun, 18th; Thu, 22nd; Sun, 25th; Thu, 29th.
January 2012: Sun, 1st; Thu, 5th; Thu, 12th; Sun, 15th; Thu, 19th; Sun, 22nd; Sat, 28th.
February 2012: Sat, 4th; Sun, 5th; Sun, 12th; Thu, 16th; Sun, 19th; Thu, 23rd; Sun, 26th; Wed, 29th.
March 2012: Thu, 8th; Sun, 11th; Thu, 15th; Sun, 18th; Thu, 22nd; Sun, 25th; Thu, 29th.
April 2012: Sun, 1st; Sat, 7th; Sun, 8th; Sat, 14th; Sun, 15th; Sat, 21st; Sun, 22nd; Sat, 28th; Sun, 29th.
(Total: 44 days)