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End of an era

Historic Queen's Cup in Kolkata might be renamed after King Charles

The longest winter race in Kolkata and one of the oldest races in the world has seen many name changes since it began in the 1850s

Cyrus Madan | Published 13.09.22, 09:13 PM
Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 and from 1953, the race has been run as the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 and from 1953, the race has been run as the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II may change the name of the historic Queen’s Cup after almost 70 years.

To understand this, we will have to go back to a couple of centuries, when the race was initiated. Since its inception, the present Queen’s Cup has been known by different names.

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The longest winter race in Kolkata and one of the oldest races in the world started in the 1850s and was known as the Governor General’s Plate. After two years, it was renamed as the Viceroy’s Cup. The gesture shows how important the race was as the Viceroy allowed the use of his name for the race.

Again, in 1947, with India’s Independence, the name of the race was changed to Governor General’s Cup. However, in 1950, an association began with the English Royal Family and the cup was named after the then monarch, King George VI. He passed away in 1952 and since 1953 the race has been run as the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

If the tradition continues, the name is likely to change and the race may be named after King Charles III. But for that, a letter of confirmation from Buckingham Palace has to reach Royal Calcutta Turf Club, saying it wants to continue the association. We hope that happens and like every year the trophy, made by the Royal Jewellers in the UK, reaches Calcutta from Buckingham Palace via the British High Commission.

Queen Elizabeth II at RCTC on the day of the race.

Queen Elizabeth II at RCTC on the day of the race.

Cyrus Madan

On February 18, 1961, more than seven years after the cup was renamed, Queen Elizabeth II visited Kolkata and presented the trophy to the winner. Out of 20 horses, a horse named Pa Bear won the 2,800 metres race. The rider was Wally Swinburn and the horse had been trained by Mac Galstaun. I was no more than two years old at that time, but I heard about it from my parents. Her Majesty entered the racecourse opposite the women’s golf course in a motor car. At that time, the chairman and the senior Stuart of RCTC was the Maharaja of Burdwan. So, he was the one who took the Queen around. Her Majesty had always had a great love for racing and horses and from the very beginning, she felt at home. The Queen was staying at the Great Eastern Hotel in Kolkata and she loved the food so much that even during her stay in Durgapur, she had food from the hotel.

The race card and programme schedule for the 1961 Queen’s Cup race.

The race card and programme schedule for the 1961 Queen’s Cup race.

Cyrus Madan

It was Mac Galstaun, who had trained the horse that had won the race witnessed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1961, who got me interested in horses and racing. The renowned trainer was also known as the Great Galstaun because of his family ancestry. He belonged to one of the oldest and greatest families in Kolkata and used to live in the same compound as us.

Queen Elizabeth II at the presentation ceremony of the Queen’s Cup at RCTC in 1961.

Queen Elizabeth II at the presentation ceremony of the Queen’s Cup at RCTC in 1961.

Cyrus Madan

Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Last year, the races were delayed by a week and held in the third week of February because of the pandemic. But this year we hope to be able to hold the races at their usual time.

If the Buckingham Palace decides to continue its association, then the trophy would reach Kolkata a few weeks before the race. Meanwhile, all we can do is wait in anticipation. 

(As told to Bishwabijoy Mitra)

Cyrus Madan is a former chairman of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club.

 

Last updated on 14.09.22, 06:25 AM
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