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By Ikram Khan | 19 Jul 2020 | BANGALORE

This is one Club which always is in the news, be it the Good, Bad and the Ugly. For A Few Dollars More one can easily twist and bend the rules and the `Magnificent Nine’ are forever tinkering and changing the system. The club stopped all activities after the first lockdown was imposed and with the Covid-19 pandemic starting to peak in the state, racing without spectators too is not likely to start before November. The Union Sports Ministry has made it clear that no sporting activity will be allowed in the next two months and that includes the Sport Of Kings. 

The moment the decision makers of the club got the wind that Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju’s team was serious and that they need to toe the line, the mandarins of the premier club decided to cancel the summer racing program, while keeping a designed mini-season up their sleeve. It is just not going to work simply because the government is under intense pressure to help and support the crumbling state health care structure. The focus is on to stop the microscopic monster in its track and certainly not provide the go-ahead for horses to start racing on the track. 

An influential member in touch with the many new developments at the corridors of power disclosed that BTC should seriously start to take care of the more than 2000 syces, riding boys and helpers camping inside the campus. “It is a ticking bomb and I’m told the clock has started to tick. Couple of riding boys and vets to my knowledge have tested Corona positive and the club on war footing needs to address the issue rather than making false statements and announcements that the club is on course to start racing from August 21 he said.

The moment the club gained permission by the government to introduce on-line betting, most senior stewards were seen taking pole positions to zoom to the many media houses to give their take on on-line betting and how on-line betting is the future and how quickly the club can develop an app and how the on-line betting process will put an end to the illegal betting. 

When asked to elaborate and provide the right data and the basic module figures, the men didn’t really have the dope and stuff and it was clear that a couple apart the rest of the `Magnificent Nine’ were only flying kites. Well despite all this, for the racing buffs, I must mention that BTC has started work to get an advanced app ready and by November they should be in a position to conduct test trials before providing the green signal. How it will work and how friendly it will be considering a fair percentage of railbirds are not computer and smart phone savvy and more importantly will the punter punt on-line paying up 28 percent GST and are people comfortable placing big bets through the app. These are a few problems the punters particularly the big bettors will face and that will bring the illegal bookies back in business. So to stand on a roof top and scream that BTC will go on-line and that this is the future is not true until the racegoer accepts the change and is willing to go by it. 

A couple of days earlier one got to see syces demanding the authorities that they be allowed to go out of the campus for an hour or two. The club shot down the proposal making it clear that BTC can’t afford to take risk with spike in Covid positive cases. And when the syces and the other stable workers pointed out that why then are the trainers allowed free entry and exit each day, the officials had no answer but to their credit they impressed on the syces that the need of the hour is to stay safe inside the campus. 

A couple more senior trainers on condition of anonymity pointed out that all is not well and soon BTC may announce a self-imposed lockdown to hopefully get the house in order. The fact that more than one virus is attacking the system has caught BTC off guard and the men who crack the whip need to quickly play the perfect `David and stop the Goliath’ who reportedly is sending the shivers down the spines of most innocent stable workers. 

Finally an interesting mail which is making the rounds in the social media is that committee member Dr Prashanth, who also is one of the owners of the best horse in the country War Hammer wants an injured riding boy from Neil Darashah’s yard out of the BTC premises. The boy, it is learnt suffered an injury when a horse kicked his leg during morning trot and canter and since it resulted in a fracture of a bone, the doctors have advised him rest. Neil’s contention is that when he is willing to keep the injured riding boy in the stables and provide him the food, stay and comfort the boy requires why is Prashanth hell bent on sending him out and in what capacity is Prashanth enforcing this order. “Well I understand that the committee member is helping to set up Covid care centre, but the point here is that my riding boy is not a Covid positive case. He just has fractured his leg and this is not how you treat an individual suffering from an injury and a doctor should understand better,” said Neil.

One other problem is the Basic Maintenance Cost (BMC) which the owners want the club to help and support in this crisis. Well from the club’s side the managing committee disclosed that they have already provided two months BMC and that `Dil Mangey More’ approach and strategy of the owners and trainers will not work considering the fact that the club is also going through a financial crunch. Well this is for the owners, trainers and stewards to debate and arrive at a healthy solution. It could well happen in the favour of trainers and owners if they approach the issue with tact and fact rather than painting the stewards and managing committee members black each time the topic is discussed at length at many coffee shops and snack bars. 

Another issue: Is BTC playing politics, releasing one portion of the part payment of BMC pertaining to the salary of the syces, while holding out the component which is paid to the trainers. This component is also linked to the wages of syces, the money paid for working on an extra horse. Now that will not be passed down to the poor syce and in this pandemic situation the migrant workers need every paisa they have earned. 

Lastly will the mandarins explain a charge that BTC is paying out about Rs 25 lakhs per month as rental for nine OCBC centres. Simple maths, the rent for four months after suspending operations in March works out to Rs 1 crore. The club according to sizeable number of influential members has made no attempt to seek a cut which can be easily obtained during this crisis nor has it closed the rentals deals knowing the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of the sport. The managing committee should understand  that money saved is also money earned and it is time the `Magnificent Men’ shoot straight from clean hands and not from the greasy palms.