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Horse racing is one of the few sports to have a long, rich history in justabout every part of the planet. For example, while India isn’t regarded as oneof the traditional homes of the sport, it has been carried out here forcenturies and is still going strong with some high-profile races taking placeeach year.
It’s been said that this sport has been popular here since the early 18thcentury, with the British influence leading to horses being imported to Indiafrom various countries. The first official record of organised horse racingcomes from the 1770s when the country’s very first racecourse was said to havestarted operating.
By the middle of the following century, there were hundreds ofracecourses across India. Many of them were in places with a strong Britishpresence, but there are also some fascinating hints that horse racing in theregion may be a far older activity.
The Rig Veda is one of the world’s oldest sets of religious texts and itmentions these animals numerous times. While most of the references are tohorses being used to pull chariots or to go to war, there’s enough informationto suggest that they were also used for recreational activities such as racing.
While Indian horse racing hasn’t reached the same levels of globalpopularity as the races from other countries, it has produced some memorablehorses who are fondly remembered. Among them are Elusive Pimpernel, who won allbut one of his 23 races, while Squanderer had a similar record, with 18 winsout of 19 starts. Some Indian horses have triumphed in events in other parts ofAsia, including Saddle Up and Astonish.
There are currently nine racetracks in India, with a series of different racingauthorities controlling the sport. The strength of the Indian breeding industrycan be seen in the fact that only Indian-bred horses are allowed to compete inraces. At the centre of this activity is the Indian Stud Book, which is whererecords 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 theBangalore Turf Club and the Hyderabad Race Club, as well as the Royal CalcuttaTurf Club. Each of these organisations has a specific racing calendar forcertain parts of the year, with July through to October or November the mostcommon season.
Betting on horse races is particularly popular in India, as it’s one of thefew sports that residents can bet on. This platform which looks at the best sports betting sites inIndia confirms that staking on horses is viewed as a skillful activity ratherthan a game of chance. Megapari and Betway are among the top bookmakers where fanscan bet on horse racing, alongside cricket and football.
The classic British races are the basis for Indian horse racing, meaningthat we can see the likes of the Indian Derby, the Indian 1,000 Guineas, theIndian St. Leger, and the Indian 2,000 Guineas. Most of these races are run atthe oval-shaped track at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai. The exception isthe St. Leger, which is based in Pune.
If we look in more depth at the Indian Derby, we can see how important thisrace is. For a start, it’s got the biggest cash purse of any sporting event inMumbai and it can be tracked all the way back to 1943. The 2022 version of theDerby was held in February this year when Zuccarelliwon the Kingfisher Ultra with jockey P.Trevor. The Indian St. Leger beganin 1944 and is the longest of the classics. It was won in 2022 by Theon andjust before this, Alicia had won the first classic of the 2022 season byclaiming first place in the 1,000 Guineas.
The first weekend in March is the setting for the Invitation Weekend, whichis 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 bestIndian horses from all over the country invited to take part in this event andhuge prizes to be won. After that, July sees the Bangalore Turf Cup held in thecity of the same name.
The long, proud history of horse racing in India means that we can expect itto carry on providing entertainment. It might not break onto the global stage theway that races in Dubai and Hong Kong have done to some degree, but there are alot of top races for fans to enjoy throughout the year.
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