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By Prakash Gosavi | 13 May 2020 |

Mr Zavaray Poonawalla

Zavaray Poonawalla, was however optimistic while speaking to mid-day, explaining the measures put in place, and how he intends to press the re-start button for the sport.

The Mumbai racing season was abruptly called off due to the lockdown imposed in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even now uncertainty prevails over the start of the Pune monsoon season, scheduled to begin in July, because racehorses are still stranded at Mahalaxmi.

Zavaray Poonawalla, chairman of the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) was however optimistic while speaking to mid-day, explaining the measures put in place, and how he intends to press the re-start button for the sport.

In view of the current pandemic and with the May heat already upon us, what about the plan to shift the horses to Pune?

Let me assure all racegoers and readers that inspite of this dreadful pandemic, things at the Mahalaxmi racecourse are under control, and I am optimistic of not only racing coming back to near normalcy, but would also like everyone to know that our racecourse is in good shape and that we are taking good care of our horses and workers. We are in touch with the government authorities to procure necessary permissions and organising logistics to transport horses to Pune prior to the onset of the monsoons.

How are the horses and the syces (attendants) being looked after?

Horses are getting their daily exercise as per their needs. As far as the feed is concerned, at this stage, they are on lighter diet but all their requirements are being fulfilled. The syces within the racecourse are being well looked after. The basic needs of all other staff and workers are also being catered to. They are provided one meal daily by horse owners. So all in all, things are good within the parameters of our racecourse.

Are you looking at the possibility of conducting the Pune season without the spectators if need be (like Hong Kong) or would you rather wait till the pandemic situation gets better?

To conduct racing without spectators is a huge effort and requires special arrangements in co-ordination with the government. We are working towards the same, including some novel ideas which could be the new silver lining to racing in India. We are also preparing the Pune track in a way that whenever racing gets the green signal, we will be ready to race.

With racing already facing huge financial problems due to GST, how do you plan to pull out of the financial crisis which is worsened by the pandemic?

We have implemented stringent cost cutting guidelines, slashing expenditure in every avenue where possible. However keeping in mind the human aspect in these difficult times is also important.

Also, we have done well in the past financial year despite the Covid 19 outbreak causing tremendous disruption and abruptly stopping the Mumbai racing season.

Many Members and general racegoers have raised there concern over the temporary quarantine tents for COVID patients that have been erected in the parking lots. Do you think this can lead to a takeover of that area?

Not at all! There is no such danger to the club's property. The Government at such times has the privilege of occupying places which could help during the pandemic. National Sports Club Of India (NSCI) is one such Club next to us that too has temporarily handed over their property. BMC found our parking lot most suitable, and therefore, not only are we obliged to accommodate in such a situation, but are most pleased to support our government initiative to utilize the space for the benefit of our Mumbai city.