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A Look at Horse Racing in India

A Look at Horse Racing in India

Horse racing is one of the few sports to have a long, rich history in just
about every part of the planet. For example, while India isn’t regarded as one
of the traditional homes of the sport, it has been carried out here for
centuries and is still going strong with some high-profile races taking place
each year.

The History of
Horse Racing in India

It’s been said that this sport has been popular here since the early 18th
century, with the British influence leading to horses being imported to India
from various countries. The first official record of organised horse racing
comes from the 1770s when the country’s very first racecourse was said to have
started operating.

By the middle of the following century, there were hundreds of
racecourses across India. Many of them were in places with a strong British
presence, but there are also some fascinating hints that horse racing in the
region may be a far older activity.

The Rig Veda is one of the world’s oldest sets of religious texts and it
mentions these animals numerous times. While most of the references are to
horses being used to pull chariots or to go to war, there’s enough information
to suggest that they were also used for recreational activities such as racing.

While Indian horse racing hasn’t reached the same levels of global
popularity as the races from other countries, it has produced some memorable
horses who are fondly remembered. Among them are Elusive Pimpernel, who won all
but one of his 23 races, while Squanderer had a similar record, with 18 wins
out of 19 starts. Some Indian horses have triumphed in events in other parts of
Asia, including Saddle Up and Astonish.

The Current

There are currently nine racetracks in India, with a series of different racing
authorities controlling the sport. The strength of the Indian breeding industry
can be seen in the fact that only Indian-bred horses are allowed to compete in
races. At the centre of this activity is the Indian Stud Book, which is where
records of thoroughbred horses in the country are kept up to date.

If we look around the country, we can see the main organisations such as the
Bangalore Turf Club and the Hyderabad Race Club, as well as the Royal Calcutta
Turf Club. Each of these organisations has a specific racing calendar for
certain parts of the year, with July through to October or November the most
common season.

Betting on horse races is particularly popular in India, as it’s one of the
few sports that residents can bet on. This platform which looks at the best sports betting sites in
India confirms that staking on horses is viewed as a skillful activity rather
than a game of chance. Megapari and Betway are among the top bookmakers where fans
can bet on horse racing, alongside cricket and football.

What Are the Big
Races in India?

The classic British races are the basis for Indian horse racing, meaning
that we can see the likes of the Indian Derby, the Indian 1,000 Guineas, the
Indian St. Leger, and the Indian 2,000 Guineas. Most of these races are run at
the oval-shaped track at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai. The exception is
the St. Leger, which is based in Pune.

If we look in more depth at the Indian Derby, we can see how important this
race is. For a start, it’s got the biggest cash purse of any sporting event in
Mumbai and it can be tracked all the way back to 1943. The 2022 version of the
Derby was held in February this year when Zuccarelli
won the Kingfisher Ultra with jockey P.Trevor. The Indian St. Leger began
in 1944 and is the longest of the classics. It was won in 2022 by Theon and
just before this, Alicia had won the first classic of the 2022 season by
claiming first place in the 1,000 Guineas.

The first weekend in March is the setting for the Invitation Weekend, which
is held at a different racetrack each year. This event includes a sprint race,
a mile race and another that covers 3,000 metres for stayers, with the best
Indian horses from all over the country invited to take part in this event and
huge prizes to be won. After that, July sees the Bangalore Turf Cup held in the
city of the same name. 

What Can We Expect
in the Future?

The long, proud history of horse racing in India means that we can expect it
to carry on providing entertainment. It might not break onto the global stage the
way that races in Dubai and Hong Kong have done to some degree, but there are a
lot of top races for fans to enjoy throughout the year.