Pune 'monsoon' season racing under a cloud

With horses still stabled in Mumbai, dark clouds loom over the Pune racing season which opens its gates in the last week of July.

The summer vacation for the 1,000-odd equines at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse has been extended, as they still wait to begin their journey to Pune.

The thoroughbred were to leave the shores of Mumbai by the end of April, after the Mumbai season, but the pandemic and the lockdown have ensured these animals stay put in their respective stables here in Mumbai.

To compound matters further, Maharashtra happens to be the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in India, with more than 22,000 cases so far. “It is to early to come to any conclusion," is the one sentence Mani NHS, the secretary and the CEO of Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has to say about the Pune racing season, which is scheduled to begin in July. The Pune season is better known as the monsoon season.

“They are still here but by the end of this month, they should be on their way to Pune,” Mani told The Free Press Journal recently.

Given the growing concern among the citizens about the novel coronavirus and the advisory issued by the state government, the RWITC suspended all the races from March 14, eventually calling off. the Mumbai season prematurely for the same reason. According to the RWITC schedule, the Mumbai season started on November 19 and the last race was to be held on April 12.

It was not a good beginning for the Mumbai season, first with the unseasonal rains delaying the kick-off and beginning in Pune, instead. This was a first in the RWITC history.

It was after a gap of three weeks that the first two days of the Mumbai racing season were held in Pune. The RWITC were forced to conduct the first two race days in Pune, as the preparations at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse were incomplete, thanks to the most delayed monsoon withdrawal last year.

A shaky start and an unexpected end due to the pandemic which forced everybody indoors from the third week of March this year and many races were cancelled.

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Free Press Journal