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It's Official: Virus Halts Mumbai Racing

By North-End | 02 Nov 2008 | PUNE


The outbreak and spread of the Equine Influenza virus has finally managed to dampen the spirit of the Mumbai railbirds who were eagerly awaiting the start of the most prestigious racing season of the country. In a meeting held on Monday at the Mahalaxmi racecourse, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) stewards reportedly held consultations with trainers, deliberated the matter at length, and came out with their verdict: Mumbai racing postponed at least up to January 15, 2009.

The club is going through a difficult phase--first the unfortunate fires and now the virus!," Vivek Jain, chairman of the RWITC stewards had just last week shared his concern with Indiarace in these words, before adding, "getting normalcy back will be a long and difficult process, but the crisis will pass and we will emerge stronger in the long run.

Undoubtedly, the same issues must have been top of the mind of all the other committee members of the RWITC who finally made the inevitable announcement. Eight of the nine elected committee members, with the exception of Jaydev Mody who was not in town, attended the meeting. According to the decision taken by the committee, the first two Classics--the Indian 1000 & 2000 Guineas which are traditionally run in December, stand cancelled as looking to the level of the present crisis, there is no way horses will be racing fit before January 15 next year. According to a source in the RWITC administration, the situation will be monitored on a "weekly basis", keeping the entire training community in the loop, to arrive at a consensus date of commencement.

The big question mark at present hovers over the most prestigious race of the country's racing calendar, the McDowell Indian Derby (grade 1) that takes place on the first Sunday of February every year at the Mahalaxmi racetrack, and also the Indian Invitation Cup Weekend's racing which Mumbai was supposed to host in March 2009. Reliable sources tell Indiarace that if racing can start before the end of January 2009, the Indian Derby may be held a little later in February, however, the Invitation Cup may be swapped with another racing centre (like Bangalore) who may hold it in 2009 and allow the RWITC to hold it during their turn.

"It's a good decision," said Deepak Chowbal, a racegoer for the last 30 years, speaking to this correspondent, "although a bit belated. The top priority is to preserve the horses, without whom there will be no racing anyway."