- india's first & foremost horse racing portal

Time is ripe for a dark horse to shine. Read more....

12 Jan 2020

India has the potential to make it big in the lucrative business of thoroughbred horse breeding. A few policy tweaks will help

The term “dark horse” in popular conversation refers to an unconsidered outsider. In the lucrative world of thoroughbred horse racing and breeding — a colossal business worldwide — countries like Ireland, Great Britain, the US, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany have hitherto dominated. A recent gate-crasher to this party is Japan.

Few outside the country consider India’s prospects in this field but the time is ripe for India, truly a dark horse in this arena, to shine on the world stage. After all, the country has a long history of horsemanship stretching back almost 4,000 years, and there is mention of the virtues of “Ashwa” in several learned treatises such as the Rigveda, the Atharvaveda, and so on.

History records that the sport of horse racing was kick-started in Great Britain in the era of King Charles II in the 17th century and was introduced to India over 200 years ago by the British, with the first racecourse having been established at Madras (now Chennai) in 1777. Obviously, one cannot have horse racing without the noble horse and so a whole new industry — horse breeding — sprang up in the 20th century centred in the Punjab as also the Bombay Province of undivided India.

A hundred years later, the country has a well-established breeding industry — spread over nine States — rivalling Italy and Germany in size. Foal production witnessed spectacular growth of 76 per cent in the decade 1988-1997, as well as impressive progress of 38 per cent between 2002-2011. Unfortunately, a combination of circumstances has seen production drop to a 30-year low in 2019, as the imposition of GST at 28 per cent on wagering is strangling the horse racing sector of the sport.

Mind-boggling values

Meanwhile, the rest of the world has seen unprecedented globalisation of horse racing and breeding. It’s not uncommon for a Japanese horse with an American grandfather to win a prestigious race in Hong Kong with a Brazilian jockey on board — as happened twice last week! Trade volumes and values are mind boggling. A few examples will suffice: early this month a pregnant mare sold in England for 2.1 million guineas (?20.67 crore), while February 2020 will see the cream of the world’s thoroughbreds competing in a race worth a stunning $20 million (?142.50 crore) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Stallions like Frankel and Justify, though not for sale, would be worth over $50 million each (?356 crore) if they were!

Test shipments of Indian thoroughbreds have shown that they can be competitive at a modest to decent level on the world stage, particularly in countries which have perforce to import all their race horses. India is placed in a favourable geographic location as being the only sizeable recognised Northern Hemisphere thoroughbred producer in a wide arc stretching from Turkey in the West to Japan in the East.

Racing locations such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman to the West and Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau to the East collectively import thousands of thoroughbreds each year — and no one is better situated to cater to these markets than India. Climatic conditions are similar while shipping distances are shorter than from many competitors.

What needs to be done to enable India to enjoy a slice of the export pie? Just two simple steps: i) the abolition of archaic import licensing, and its replacement with a decentralised system of import permits, based on health grounds alone, and ii) the removal of the crushing burden of 48.96 per cent import duty and GST on pureline breeding stock, as is the case in virtually every horse breeding country in the world.

The cost to the government for the former is nil (rather, there would be a saving by not requiring multiple ministries and committees to spend their valuable time assessing applications), while for the latter the amount foregone is insignificant and would be easily recompensed by the huge upturn in economic activity in this sector.

Indian horse breeders could then vastly up their game and import superior stock, thus facilitating the export of ready-to-race thoroughbreds with a huge cost advantage compared to rival exporters. Truly ‘Make-In-India’ at its best! Moreover, shrewd international investors could bring in valuable FDI, recognising the cost savings the country offers in rearing and training thoroughbreds in what is a highly labour-intensive business. The scope for employment generation, particularly in rural areas, is enormous. It’s a win-win situation all round.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune”. Let’s not spurn this opportunity!

Recent News


Former Committee member of Mysore Race Club and racehorse owner Apana Subaiya passed away due to a severe heart attack. Mr Subaiya will also be remembered as being a part-owner in the unbeaten winner of the Indian Derby, War Hammer. Indiarace offers its sincere condolences to the bereaved family.


Kolkata race scheduled to be held Saturday 9th December 2023 have been postponed to Tuesday 12th December 2023 due to incessant rain rendering the underfoot condition of the race track. Acceptances with order or running as published will hold good.


The Board of Appeal at the meeting held on 05/12/2023 having considered the grounds of Appeal submitted by Jockey Akshay Kumar and the submissions made by him and his spokesperson Mr. Y S Srinath, resolved to dismiss the Appeal lodged by Jockey Akshay Kumar and the order passed by the Stewards of the Hyderabad Race Club stands i.e. suspension of “A” Jockeys License granted to him under HRC Rules of racing w.e.f. 7th December 2023 upto and including 26th February 2024.


Due to incessant rains rendering the track not conducive for racing, the Stewards of the Madras Race Club have decided to cancel the races scheduled to be held on Thursday, 30 November 23 and Friday 1st December 2023.


Mumbai races scheduled to be held today Sunday 26th November 2023 have been postponed to Thursday 30th November 2023. The same card shall hold good.


Trainer Altaf Hussain passed away today afternoon on Thursday 23rd Nov 2023. Indiarace offers its sincere condolences to the bereaved family. Trainer Altaf Hussain won back to back Indian Derby with Desert Warrior in 1990 and Starfire Girl in 1991.


Due to incessant rain rendering the Track not conducive for racing, The Stewards of the Madras Race Club have decided to postpone Chennai races to be held on Saturday 25th November 23 to Thursday 30th November 23. Published Acceptance holds good and fresh declarations will be on Tuesday 28th November 23.