The turf club needs a clean race today

Today, Mumbai’s high profile Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) holds its annual general meeting (AGM) at the picture-postcard Mahalaxmi race course. The results of the elections for the new RWITC committee will be announced late this evening.

There has been a difference between last year’s election run-up and this year’s run-up to the decider. Last year was a very bitter contest. Some audio tapes mysteriously surfaced at the last minute, in the pre run-up, with excerpts of conversations about ‘fixing’ people with doping allegations. The run-ups see slanging matches between rival teams and selective bits of information are leaked to the media, which is now also part of what is very frankly a circus.

Last year saw high-octane controversy, with each team trying to score over the other in the run-up stakes. This time, controversy’s children have been much more low key. Let the winner, whoever it may be, now focus on the issues that continue to dog the sport.

Addressing attendance at the races and making attempts to up the numbers, even for races which are not classics is one. Improving betting facilities at the tote for punters, especially on big racing days, is another. Facilities for jockeys, who are part of the lifeblood of the sport, should also be improved. There are, in fact, so many issues still to be looked at, which the committee can focus on.

Of course, clean racing is a perennial concern, because credibility is all-important to keep the punter coming back. There is also the lease issue, which hangs over the green emerald of SoBo like the Sword of Damocles. The 100-year BMC lease has expired and needs to be renewed.

It is not just the punters and racing aficionados, but even the public wants the custodians of Mahalaxmi to retain this as an open space. Let infighting not obfuscate from the real goals which the new committee needs to work towards with vigour.

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