The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paddock parade shown the door

The traditions that the Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) follows are widely accepted and respected all over the horseracing world. The little over a century-and-half-old institution had, in fact, controlled nearly 150 turf clubs in undivided India.

Needless to say, the club, during its heyday, had imparted these values and ethos to all its subsidiaries to help them function successfully and blossom. Today, that RCTC is struggling for its very existence.

The new generation’s lack of interest in the sport, combined with the scarcity of race-worthy horses are seen to be the two major drawbacks hitting the cash registers. The ever-increasing cost of running the show and the declining attendance were also reasons for the totalisator remaining stagnant.

However, one thing those who identified the poor areas played down was stiping, which had been a weak link ever since Anjan Gupta quit. Stiping being a very specialised subject, the present makeshift lot cannot be blamed for missing race-related crimes, leave alone the serious ones, which are invariably allowed to pass.

As a result of this, race-goers are beginning to lose faith in the institution. The quitting of Vineet Verma has added to the RCTC’s woes. Desperate now to do something extraordinary, the RCTC’s new administrators are now concentrating on the increase of the totalisator’s intakes even if it means departing from age-old traditions.

Some officials seem to think that the earlier the horses are dispatched to the starting gates, the better the investment follows at the totalisator. In their view, the race-public crowd around the paddocks as long as horses do not leave for the start.

However, for years, horses have been doing a full circle or two of the paddock after all jockeys have mounted. The method started now is to dispatch the fields to the racetrack without giving jockeys

and runners sufficient time to balance themselves in the seat. Would the secretary own responsibility in an event of an accident' The racing manager, general, Rajan Mehrotra, does not, however, think it may cause accidents. But then he has been a theoretician all his life before being pushed into stiping during the RCTC’s economy drive four years ago.

A professional stipe would know the importance of a paddock parade. It not only helps jockeys and trainers gauge faults in saddling of their respective charges and take corrective measures, if any, it also assists the wagering lot make its selections. The standard duration of 30 minutes between two races, followed all over the world, has already been increased to 35-40 minutes by RCTC.

In the coming months, it may not come as a surprise if the gap is increased to an hour and horses are sent straight to the starting stalls from the stables. The new secretary being an ex-finance man, has, perhaps, given his blessings to this risky venture for the cause of the totalisator.

However, despite all these, last Wednesday’s races were very enjoyable. The high point of the day being the vast improvement displayed by Calamint while destroying the opposition in the 1,400m Hovercraft Cup.

The Vijay Singh-trainee made her own running and triumphed by nearly five lengths. However, Vijay’s short-priced favourite Thrilling Proposal also won but failed to do full justice to his odds. The Rebounding Thrill-Modest Proposal three-year-old did need the run and may do better in his next start.

Trainer T. N. Jaiswal continues his giant-killing ways. Ridden by son Vinay, their less fancied ward Common Spirit, made short work of the opposition in the Anybody Here Handicap. Equally enterprising was the in-form jockey R. Yadav on Schumacher who played spoilsport to deprive Vijay of his treble from Anacott in a very close contest.

Ridden again by the visiting jockey K. Suresh, Secret Force, finally entered the winners enclosure, albeit with an element of a slight luck, as favourite Sea Legend’s jockey Amjad Khan dropped his whip near the home-turn, while in comfortable lead. However, Suresh needed no such luck when he guided Bright And Clear to a back-to-back victory, an easy one, too.

Tequila Shot’s victory was long over due and the H. S. Bath-trainee had the measure of favourite Rohini.

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