Mumbai: 114 of India's best horses to be auctioned at Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Feb 08, 2018, 08:50 IST | Hemal Ashar

Next week will see 114 of the best horses in the country being auctioned at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Thoroughbreds thunder on the turf
Thoroughbreds thunder on the turf

Have money? Will buy... a horse. Ritz and glitz will swirl together, like a well-mixed cocktail, at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse paddock on February 12 and 13 afternoon, as the annual horse auction returns to the Western India turf club headquarters after 21 years. The classy paddock, with its vintage old-world charm, will play host to at least 114 horses, the cream of the crop.

The Indian Derby 2018 at Mahalaxmi
The Indian Derby 2018 at Mahalaxmi

RWITC chairman Khushroo Dhunjibhoy laughs as he says, "The turf is already buzzing with excitement post-derby. You would think the big-ticket race of the season was yet to come. This auction will eliminate any backdoor methods; it is really looked forward to, even with a 12 per cent GST on a horse."

RWITC chairman Khushroo Dhunjibhoy
RWITC chairman Khushroo Dhunjibhoy

The racecourse is buzzing, to use the chairman's words. As one enters Mahalaxmi near the walking track, announcing running groups and yoga classes, you see a huge banner announcing the annual auction sales with Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and their answers.

There are numerous pieces on the club's website about the event. Pedigree expert Anil Mukhi's piece is a mix of elation with caution. An excerpt tells prospective buyers: "Often, lots 'fall through cracks', meaning buyers are not paying attention and the wise, and alert, owl gets the worm. The only way to ensure that one does not miss something desirable is to be there!"

Ego battles
Auctioneer Cyrus (he's no virus) Madan, whose crisp speak will ring out at the paddock next week, says, "A horse auction, unlike others, is not that brisk. The auctioneer needs to push and cajole at times. Earlier, a lot of horses were sold privately; this time, the auction is going to bring in more transparency."

"There are egos involved during bidding battles. The auctioneer has to handle situations, imbue the auction with some wit at times, use humour to defuse a little conflict maybe... I have noticed when there is a very big owner bidding, others against him tend to back off after a point," the Kolkata-based Madan adds.

Not apologetic
Top breeder Teghbir Brar echoes Madan's transparency claim when he writes in a piece, which is on the club's website, "The auction does away with any cloak and dagger system of a private sale, where unscrupulous breeders can be in cahoots with unscrupulous trainers in duping an owner." Ameeta Mehra, the first lady of Indian horse breeding, says it straight in her piece, "We need not be apologetic or shy about purchasing expensive stock (horses) in public auctions, as we are not shy when we buy expensive cars and watches!"

Elegant evenings
Former club commentator Mahendra Mallya says, "Early next week will see class at the paddock. It should bring back 'elegance' to the turf. When you see bigwigs vying to outdo each other, it makes for interesting watching. Sometimes, rival owners will go above the value of a horse during the bidding, because ego comes into play. But after the auction, all is forgotten, and they will clink glasses together.

The astute racing observer adds, "Madan will bring his brand of dash into the auction ring; the auctioneer's style can make or break an auction. I remember, years ago, RWITC secretary Major Paul Jacobs used to conduct auctions with a lot of panache." As for the 12 per cent GST, Mallya says, "Nothing really can stamp out the passion of a horse owner."

12%
GST on the rate of a horse

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