EVENING RACING : Light, camera, action at the evening racing carnival

With the introduction of floodlit racing at the Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai, the Royal Western India Turf Club has added a new dimension to horse racing, in India, paving the way to broaden the reach and allure of the popular sport

Mahalaxmi Race Course becomes the first club in the country to introduce evening racing, thanks to Poonwallas, they have made things happen

“It took 30 years of thinking but it took us just three months to make it happen,” said the Royal Western Indian Turf Club chairman, Zavaray Poonawalla, talking to Corporate Citizen about the evening racing begun at Mahalaxmi Racecourse from this year.

Now, evening racing has opened a new chapter in the history of Indian racing — this is for the first time that such evening racing has come into the country. “We are proud that we are the first turf club to introduce it in India, and I am sure other clubs will take the cue from us and introduce it in their respective clubs,” said Poonawalla, who has been the main force behind this venture.

Much more than racing, the concept has worked as an opportunity for a good evening outing, especially on weekends, and has drawn youngsters to the race course, infusing young blood into racing.

It is a wrong perception that racing only means betting. There is more to it -- the ambience, the crowd, and more importantly, the beautiful horses in action.

But RWITC chairman Poonawalla rules out evening racing in Pune, the cost factor being the main reason.

“Cost is a major issue with evening racing. We would love to have it here, but the cost is prohibitive. If we get sponsors we may, but as of now we have not thought about it,” he said.

‘It is a fantastic initiative by the club and this would undoubtedly be a game changer, and increase the footfall’

But at Mahalaxmi, it has made a difference. “It’s different, and the ambience in the race course has changed. I hope that this prevails for years to come. It has made weekend outings at the race course more meaningful,” said Anuradha Gaikwad who made it to the evening racing. “It is not just betting, but there are many other things lined up at the race course, making an outing at the Mahalaxmi Race Course worth it.”

The Managing Committee headed by chairman KN Dhunjibhoy and Dr Ram Shroff, Committee Member and Steward of the Club, as also the Chairman of the Night Racing Working Group, have made all this possible through sheer dedication and the will to take horse racing to a higher level. Dhunjibhoy is optimistic. “With this we add a new chapter in Indian racing history at the Mahalaxmi Race Course. It is a fantastic initiative by the Club and this would undoubtedly be a game changer, and increase the footfall”. I am confident that with evening racing, the Mahalaxmi Racecourse will turn into one of the exciting and enjoyable destinations for Mumbaikars to spend evenings with their family,” he said.

“I am thrilled to initiate and run this project with the support of my colleagues,” said Dr Ram Shroff. “I am certain this will change the way racing is conducted in this country. We are proud to associate with Cambay Tiger who will be helping us redefine racing.”

Evening racing is a common feature at most racecourses abroad in modern times and the evening fixtures offer a wholly different perspective to the traditional afternoon races which have dominated the sport over its history. Evening races attract a different crowd -- those wishing to combine the thrill and excitement of horse racing with a more social experience. The Mahalaxmi Race Course has always enjoyed an iconic status and RWITC is universally looked upon as the premier racecourse in the country.

By Joe Williams