Snub the snobs

Updated: Dec 21, 2016, 11:03 IST | Hemal Ashar

Racing officials to woo the consistently loyal local punter rather than the uppity club member, because like Shakira’s hips, numbers don’t lie

Zen and the art of getting the crowds into the race course: Shaolin monks perform at the paddock. The entertainment has been skewed towards the members side
Zen and the art of getting the crowds into the race course: Shaolin monks perform at the paddock. The entertainment has been skewed towards the members side

Cosseted and catered to all these years, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) member is a pampered visitor to Mahalaxmi Racecourse. The members, who inhabit the first lawn of the racecourse, wearing their snob status along with their Pradas and Guccis, have had a good thing going for them. There has been a proliferation of eateries on the members’ lawns, as the RWITC sought to make Mahalaxmi a family-entertainment zone. Music and events have turned the members enclosure into a page 3 hangout and facilities have been upgraded periodically, with seating, reserved boxes, betting enclosures and the latest in TV screens.

Now, in a meeting, the RWITC committee has decided to focus on the ordinary punter or the local, the lifeblood of the sport. Recognising that this is the demographic that fills the racecourse, there is going to be a concerted effort to woo the local who may not know his Gucci from his Gabbana, but certainly knows his Treble from his Tanala.

Vivek Jain, chairman, RWITC agreed, “There is going to be focus on that section, but we have not defined exactly what that would be. We have only talked about offering betting vouchers, maybe have more food stalls.” While entrance to the members enclosure is Rs 300 for a person, the first enclosure for the non-member is Rs 50 a person.

“The rate for the first enclosure entrance is too high,” states racing regular H Chavda. “We need to decrease it to Rs 30. Better seating arrangements near the ring (betting area) and importantly, newer TV screens will upgrade that space. There are still very old-style televisions in the non-members stand, we need to give them flat screens.”

There needs to be more inclusivity and the non-member must be able to feel he has a stake in the racecourse. Jaydev Mody, committee member thinks this is the way to go. “Though it needs to be correctly, scientifically done. We have to spell out what is needed and then implement it. The club’s marketing team has to outline the plan. We must recognise that 70 to 80 per cent of our betting revenue comes from here.”

A regular laughed as he said, “Club members are busy betting illegally on their phones, it is the non-member, intensely passionate about his racing that knows his horses that bets here at the racecourse. More should be offered to them.”

Khushroo Dhunjibhoy, current committee member, said, “Attendance is 70 per cent in the non-members’ and 30 per cent in the members’ stand, and even that 30 may be an exaggeration, so it makes sense to concentrate on local race-goers.

“We need better eateries in the enclosure, some entertainment, like music, we have concentrated on a very Western music vibe till now, and we need to bring a local flavour.”

Move over Beethoven and enter Bappi Lahiri? While the snobberati may shudder at the thought, that may be an exaggeration. Yet, even acknowledging the section is significant as this would puncture the pretensions and elitism that racing likes to cling to. Dhunjibhoy laughs saying, “we might like to call it elitist, but the elites are not coming to the racecourse.”

Numbers say it better than words. Jain estimates that, “if 1,000 persons arrive to the members enclosure on a weekend, there would be at least 4,000 in the non members,” but others claim you could put that down to 700 to 6,000.

Rs 300
Cost of ticket (members’ enclosure)

Rs 50
Cost of ticket (non-members’ enclosure)

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