| A participant at a monsoon race in Calcutta and (right) a member of the audience at the Royal Ascot this year
The pitter-patter of rain will now be accompanied not just by the roll of thunder but thundering hooves as the Calcutta Monsoon Meeting 2012 gets underway at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club.
Starting Tuesday, the monsoon racing season will gallop to a close on October 16, packing in 25 race days in these three months of speed thrills and super stakes. There will be 175 races in all, the big-ticket ones being the Calcutta Juvenile Sprint and Calcutta Monsoon Sprint on August 18, the Calcutta Fillies Trial Stakes and Calcutta Colts Trial Stakes on September 8, Stewards Cup on September 22, the Calcutta Monsoon Derby on October 6 and the Monsoon Cup on October 13.
The total advertised stake money for this season is a shade over Rs 6 crore 65 lakh, up from Rs 5 crore 76 lakh the previous monsoon. The trophies and cups this season are together valued at Rs 10 lakh.
Not just trophies, the tipple tale is sure to make race veterans smile, with the RCTC bar offering happy hours while the races are on.
While winter racing is one of Calcuttas enduring traditions, with a visit from Queen Elizabeth II herself in 1961, monsoon races can be just as much fun, say racecourse officials. At RCTC, we believe every race day is dress-up day pretty dresses and elaborate hats for the ladies and crisp suits for men, smiled racecourse manager and commentator Anit Casyab, urging Calcuttans to take a leaf (or feather) out of the style book of the just-concluded Royal Ascot in London.
The preparation for the Monsoon Meeting begins even as the winter races are underway in the city. The winter tracks are tan-based while in monsoon we have sand-based grass tracks, explained Casyab, adding that it takes about five months to get the racecourse ready for the rainy season.
Turf Club CEO J.J. Singh is betting big this season no, not on the horses but on Calcutta turning up in numbers to make the Monsoon Meeting a thundering success. This years monsoon races will be very competitive and we have horses from Mumbai and Bangalore coming in. The stake money has gone up and the age profile of the race patron has come down. So its a very exciting time at the races now, said Singh, who expects the daily footfall to cross 5,000.
Tickets to the members enclosure are priced at Rs 200 per head and can be bought at the RCTC entrance on the day of the race itself. Inside, the club has upped the number of food counters and one can pick from kebabs and biryani to sandwiches and fries, washing it all down with beer and other bar staples. The first race on Tuesday is at 2pm.