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By Mahendra Mallya | 24 Jul 2014 | PUNE


July, each year, sets off the racing season in Pune. The picturesque racecourse is back alive with action and the buzz of thousands of local racing fans swelling in number each year with the arrival of visitors from all across. The richest and most glamorous of monsoon racing in India will commence on Thursday, 24th July 2014. With stakes of Rs 11.5 crore on offer, the thirteen-week long season will ensure excitement and high entertainment each week until the 26th of October 2014.

The RWITC can take pride in the long list of sponsors in its rostrum. This year, six new sponsors will associate with the Club, while the regular sponsors continue to support the high profile sport. "In spite of the general cut down in marketing budgets by several corporates, coupled with the unfamiliarity with the sport in many cases, makes the task of attracting new sponsors that much more difficult. Despite the external environment, the Club has done well in scheduling a packed season of top races spanning the three months of racing," said Mr Vivek Jain, Chairman, RWITC. The new entrants as sponsors are - Omkar, Prithvi Eddifice, The Pune Bookmakers Association, K Club of Ireland, Goel Ganga and Mr Sanjeev Mahajan.

The international sponsorships that the Club can be proud of have continued their association and this speaks well for the sport. The Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Goffs, Coolmore Stud, Connolly's Red Mills, Thoroughbred Remedies Manufacturing and Tattersalls have been on the Club's list of regular sponsors at Pune. Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and Goffs jointly sponsor the RWITC Gold Cup (Grade II) for the third year, while Coolmore, Thoroughbred Remedies Manufacturing and Tattersalls will be sponsoring the Million races. 

The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby and the Signature Indian St leger the last of the Indian Classics that is traditionally run in Pune, are the two Grade one races that attract the best of horses. The United Spirits Ltd, sponsors of the Signature Indian St Leger will showcase the Signature St Leger bringing in a host of entertaining events around the Indian Classic. The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby has its own shine and the IGCC backed Oktoberfest only adds an exotic aura of revelry and guzzlers of the bitter are certain to have a whale of a time during the much looked forward to Oktoberfest on the Derby weekend. The beer fest along with traditional German cuisine and authentic German music add an awesome aura to the biggest weekend of the Pune races. The Oktoberfest is into its fifth year and the popularity of this extravaganza has only multiplied over the years.

The newly laid Monsoon track is perhaps the most challenging development to this season. The Rs Three crore project overseen by the Club's Clerk of the Course, Mr B N Nanjapa, took off in November last year and was completed in March this year. Mr Nanjapa was as apprehensive as he was gleeful. "It has been a hard toil and I feel satisfied with the job completed. However, I am bothered about the shortfall of rains in Pune this year. The monsoons have kept away for an agonizingly long period. In fact, I was worried whether we could start the season on schedule. A couple of good showers came as a huge relief. We had a trial on the track with about ten horses galloping on the new track. The feedback from the jockeys has been positive and I also felt the track is shaping up well. It will take a few weeks for the track to settle down. Another few spells of good rains should do the trick. Given time, I am confident that this will be one of the better monsoon tracks in the country. Patience is the key, although I am on the contrary getting a little impatient myself," said Mr Nanjapa.

The new monsoon track runs the distance of the course and is multi layered. The rising ground goes up past the 1600 meter mark and climbs all the way until around the 600m mark. over that distance the rise is just over 40 feet! The track looks lush green and is a beauty of a surface. The calculated camber makes it easier to grip on to the surface particularly while taking the turns and the horses are sure to enjoy the purchase while they pound their hooves. This track is expected to be much safer even in highly wet conditions.

The stands too has been given a classy makeover. Air-conditioned private boxes line up the top floor of the Grand Stands. For the racing public, an area of around 6000 sq feet with the food court in the vicinity makes for comfortable seating and viewing of races across the track. Bright LED screens have been placed right across the I enclosure stands and at various other points including two in the bookmakers ring. 

Keeping to the corporate social responsibility, the Club will ensure days dedicated to social causes as has been done each season in the past. "The threptin Fillies' & Mares' Stakes will be in aid of the Indian Red Cross. We hope to add more associations to our charitable partnerships in the near future," said Mr Jain.

A national pyramid for Pattern races will be in force from 2014-15. The initiative of the Turf Authorities of India will see five graded races added to western India. The Noshir & Dolly Dhunjibhoy Sprint Championship and the traditional Akkasaheb Maharaj Trophy have been accorded the Grade III status from the next Pune Season. This Pune season will also see a million race for two year old juveniles, another first for the RWITC.   

The Pune racecourse wears a totally new look. With the greens looking lush and Grand Stands freshly refurbished, the horses will be the real stars to fill the entertainment cup to the brim. Trainer Narendra Lagad will be ready to renew his tryst with the trainers championship he so often has seized on the Pune turf. Pesi Shroff, Malesh Narredu, Dallas Todywalla will ensure that the competition will be fierce. Local lads Sandesh, Zervan, Trevor and Dashrat Singh will look to dominate in the saddle. Yash Narredu, the newest entrant on the racing circuit from the Narredu clan will hope to make his Pune debut season a memorable one. Another apprentice, Bhawani Singh too is waiting to make his presence felt. For the crowds, the combats and contests will be thoroughly enjoyable.