Horse Racing: A Thriving Sport In India

Written by Team IndiBlogHub  »  Updated on: July 19th, 2024

Horse Racing: A Thriving Sport In India

When considering the popular sports played in India, it is cricket and field hockey that first come to mind. However, another sport that is hugely popular across the nation is horse racing.

While betting on sports tends to fall into a gray area of India’s laws, in the case of horse racing, in 1996 the Hon'ble Supreme Court reached a decision that horse racing is a game of skill and not a game of chance. It is a sport which primarily depends on the special ability acquired and developed through years of training involving both the horse and rider. Therefore, wagering on horse racing through a horse bet app is not illegal in India. 

Horse Racing Holds Long History Across India

The history of horse racing in India extends back nearly 250 years. The very first racecourse in the country was established in Madras in 1777.

Today, not only is the sport of horse racing thriving in the country, there is also a very well-established breeding industry present in India. World-class stallions are imported into the country from all parts of the globe. However, all racing in the country is restricted to only Indian-bred horses. 

Wagering on the sport takes place via traditional bookmakers, pool betting and through online betting sites.

There are currently nine racetracks operating in India and they are governed by six separate racing authorities.

There are two race meets held annually at the Bangalore Turf Club - a summer meet from May to August and a winter meet from November through April. Racing on the Monsoon Track of the Hyderabad Turf Club is in operation with twice-weekly meets from July to October and again from November to February.

At Kolkata, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club conducts race meets from November to April and July through mid-October. There’s racing at the Mysore Race Club in Mysuru from mid-August through the end of October. They also offer brief meets in the summer and winter seasons. 

The Madras Race Club offers meets in Chennai from October to March and at Udhagamandalam from April to June. At the Delhi Turf Club, racing takes place once a week from August until May. The Royal Western India Turf Club holds race meets at Mumbai from November to May and in Pune from July to November.

Top Horse Racing Events In India

Start of the 2016 Indian Derby (This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

Start of the 2016 Indian Derby (This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication).

All of the aforementioned tracks conduct classic stakes races throughout their racing seasons. The Classic Series consists of five races and tends to parallel the stakes season that operates in Great Britain. 

The Indian 1000 and 2000 Guineas are held in December. Entry into the 1000 Guineas is restricted to three-year-old fillies. However, both fillies and colts are permitted to contest the 2000 Guineas. 

Towards the end of January each year, the Indian Oaks is run. Then on the first Saturday in February, the Indian Derby is contested with a purse of more than 30 million rupees. In September, the Indian St. Leger takes place at Pune.

Contested since 1943, the Indian Derby is the major event on India’s horse racing calendar. Perhaps the most famous Indian Derby was run in 1947. The filly Her Majesty, with Australian jockey W.T. Evans up, fell at the start of the race. Horse and rider regained their footing, got back up and continued to contest the race. Her Majesty wound up losing the Indian Derby by a nose to Bucephalus. Two weeks later in the Indian St. Leger Classic, Her Majesty won the race by 20 lengths over a distanced Bucephalus.

All of the other Indian Classic Series events are held at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai.

The Bangalore Derby, a Grade One stakes event, is held on the second Sunday of July at the Bangalore Turf Club,

The Invitation Cup Weekend rotates throughout the country’s many other turf authorities. This event is conducted every year on the first weekend of March. There is the Sprinters’ Cup, a Grade One stakes race over 1200 meters, along with the Super Cup, a one mile race and the Stayers’ Cup, a 3000-meter race.

The best horses in the country that are at least four years old are extended invitations to participate in these events. 

Legendary Indian Racehorses

While no Indian horse has ever enjoyed success in a major US race such as the Breeders’ Cup or one of the Triple Crown events, racehorses from India have done well in England and other prominent horse racing nations.

Southern Regent was a two-time winner on English soil late in the gelding’s career as a nine year old. He was the winner of the 2005 Indian Derby. Saddle Up won Malaysia’s Tunku Gold Cup and was second in the Singapore International Cup. 

Mystical was a two-time winner in the Dubai Racing Carnival. Beat It Dude was a top performer in South Korea, while Indian Triple Crown winner Astonish was a Class One winner in Hong Kong.

There have been 10 winners of India’s Triple Crown - the Indian Derby, St. Leger and 2000 Guineas. The list includes Commoner (1954), Loyal Manzar (1962), Prince Pradeep (1964), Red Rufus (1966), Our Select (1968), Squanderer (1977), Almanac (1982), Astonish (1992), Indictment (1997)  and Smart Chieftan (2000).

A winner of 18 of 19 career starts, Squanderer is considered in some circles to be the most dominant horse in Indian racing history. Along with his Triple Crown triumph, between 1976-78 Squanderer also posted wins in the RWITC Invitational Cup, Maharaja's Gold Cup, President of India Gold Cup, The Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Nizam's Gold Cup, Governor's Cup - Bangalore, President of India Gold Cup and the Eclipse Stakes of India.

Many world-famous jockeys have raced in India over the years. This list of dignitaries includes Frankie Dettori, Lester Piggott, Johnny Murtagh and Joe Mercer. 

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