IT all begin here, more than 150 years after Kempe Gowda founded Bangalore. In 1537,Indian racing began to evolve, but not before overcoming two problems that prevented it from establishing itself earlier. The wars that the Mysoreans, the English, the French, the Marathas and the Nawab of Bengal fought between the 1740s and the 1790s together posed one problem, creating situations that were not conducive for pursuits like racing. The non-availability of suitable horses was the other. Brigadier General Sir Ormonde Winter observed in Racing At Home And Abroad that, the native "country-bred'' pony was hardy but unsuitable for racing.' It was clear even during those days that Bangalore had an asset that would influence equestrian pursuits in the region. It was the city's climate. M. Fazlul Hasan noted in his Bangalore Through The Centuries that the climate was found to be ideal for breeding cavalry horses. He said that, "Bangalore was particularly well suited for rearing horses from Persia." The breeding of local horses was encouraged at that time. The Mysore cavalry had rows of stables outside the city's fort in what is now Kalasipalayam while the syces lived in what is now Parvathipuram.
Birth of Bangalore Turf Club - One morning in December 1 1920, four stewards met at the grandstand of the Turf Club's present location in High Grounds. They were: Major R.H.O.D Paterson, Sir Leslie Miller, Major J.M Holmes and C.N Suryanarain Row. These gentlemen approved to form a race club in the city.There were to be 30 club members. The Stewards could elect an unlimited number of stand members. The admission charges for both types of memberships was Rs 20. Men were required to pay while entry was free for women.
The rules of the Bangalore Race Club were framed in three months. These rules were read and passed at the
March 13, 1921 Stewards meeting held at the United Services Club. It was also decided that additional races held in July should should be closed to the members of the United Sevices Club, Madras Club, Madras Race Club, Ooty club and Bangalore Turf Club. On May 20, 1921, the BTC was inaugurated at a general meeting.
The committee elected under the new club's rules comprised of Col.J. Desaraj Urs, Maj. R.H. O.D Paterson (Poona Horse), Sir Leslie Miller, Lt. Col. C.S. Rome (Queen's Bays), Lt. Col. C. Gaunt and Lt. Col. H. Comes. Other members elected by the stewards were C.N. Suryanarain Row, Aga Abbas Ali and Shirley Tremeane.
The meeting decided the lands held by the stewards since the 1916 agreement (when an agreement was drawn up with the Maharaja of Mysore enabling the Stewards of the Bangalore races to hold the race course lands!) must now be assigned to the newly elected committee. Accordingly, on September 9, 1923 the lands were granted to the Bangalore Turf Club by the Maharaja's government.
The agreement read, "The said lands will be held in the sole possession of the Race Club Committee so long as they are utilized for a Race Course. The secretary at that time was H. Donne. Race books dating from 1905 show that he had been serving the sport in Bangalore for at least 15 years before the club was formed.
The 1937 BTC rule book indicates how the club supported hunting and polo in Bangalore. It specifies that a percentage of the net profits from every gymkhana will be made over to a hunt and polo committee. It also says that the maharaja would have to approve the nomination of the Master of Hounds. The minute book shows that contributions were also made to the Coorg Hounds. The minute book further reveals that the BTC regularly contributed to the rail fare of polo ponies brought over to Bangalore for tournaments. It appears that the polo grounds were located in Ulsoor and Domlur areas. Apart from supporting other equestrian activities, BTC contributed regularly to various charities.
During World War II, the Bangalore Race Club was among the many organisations that raised war funds. The treble event pool of Rs. 2,057 remained unpaid on the last day's races in 1940. The BTC committee decided to contribute this amount to the Madras Mail War Plane Fund through the Mysore State War Relief Fund. The committee decided shortly afterwards to contribute the Rs. 1,000 saved by canceling the stewards' luncheon and the race ball to the Mysore Plane Fund. The first day of the seven day 1941 season was organised as a 'War Fund Day'.
The official race books were available at various establishments in the city Among these were Funnells Ltd. on 'South Parade,' the BUS Club West End Hotel, Krishnaiah Chetty &Co. on Commercial St. and Bowring Institute Riding Down Memory LaneAmong the famous owners mentioned in the race book were the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, the Maharaja of Idar and the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. The names of trainers who were in Bangalore then may evoke nostalgic memories among old timers.
The names included those of Tom Hill, R. Shamlan, M. Ali Asker II, Mohammed Lahori, R. Khodyar and N.E. Raymond. Despite this impressive line- up, some owners still preferred to have their horses trained privately. The list of jockeys included the names of Baba Khan, W.H. Carr, W.J. Sibbrit, L.W. Marrable, E. Britt, T. Burn, W.T. Evans, A. Roberts, P. Rylands, N. Whiteside and Parsuji Shanker.
Baba Khan's family produced a host of racing professionals. Carr was the English royal family's jockey who partnered the great Prince Pradeep in India. Sibbrit taught Pandu Khade and M. Jagdish pacework while Marrable taught current ace Aslam Kader race riding. Unearthing a season of significance, the Bangalore Turf Club's race course was, quite literally, dug up during the military occupation. Telephone and drainage lines were laid across the track. Apart from the track, the stables were also far from being ready for a racing season. The Conditions improved later. By 1951 the 'Bloodhorse Breeders' Review had much to praise about racing in the city. It said, "One of the most attractive racing centres in the South, from all points of view, is Bangalore. The climate is pleasant and racing and other amenities are excellent.
Trainers from Calcutta and Bombay summer their horses here, and young imported thoroughbreds relish the lush pastures and generally make good progress in their preparation." The season saw 362 horses contesting for 91 races which in those days was an achievement of sorts.
In what the Review called, "the outstanding feature of the season." a horse bred in Pakistan but classified as an Indian-Bred, won 5 races in a row Named Pocket Apollo. He won the Apollo Cup and RWITC Cup while picking up Rs. 19,500 in stake money. Fellexia( Rockfel-Lexia), a four-year old English Filly won the season's main event- the Class 111 Maharaja of Mysore's Gold Cup She took 2 minutes and 35 seconds to win a race being run over 1 and half miles for the first time.
The Bangalore racecourse nestles amidst 85 acres of greenery in the heart of the city. It presents a truly beautiful sight hroughout the year.
Bangalore boosts not only of the best weather but also the best professionals as well.
Starting as a Summer racing center, racing has today grown enormously, with about 65 days programmed over 2 seasons, Summer and Winter spread over 8 months in Bangalore. This is apart from the 45 days of racing at Mysore, which is conducted by the Mysore Race Club.
Bangalore Race Track is a challenging one. It is an oval shaped, right-handed course measuring approximately 1950m with 4 sharp curves and pronounced gradients. The downhill backstretch drops 13.10m (43 feet) from 1800m to 800m and climbs 11.58m (38 feet) from the point to the winning post, with a further rise of 1.5m (five feet) from the winning post to the 1800m marker. This demanding and testing race track, with its gradients, bends and a distinct short straight, places a premium both on the speed and the endurance of the horses and the skill and experience of the jockeys. A win on the racetrack is therefore a significant achievement.
If the Bangalore Race Course is considered as one of the best in the country for the challenge it poses both to the horse and to the riders, the credit should go to the successive administrators who have wisely made use of the natural and undulating contours of the land. The Bangalore Race Course is probably the only one on the world where a limited space of barely 85 acres has been so comprehensively utilised to provide facilities such as stabling for over 1000 horses, three training tracks, an equine swimming pool, training schools, walking rings, a veterinary hospital and even an amateur riding school.
Bangalore Turf Club played a crucial role in the starting of off-course betting in association with Royal Western India Turf Club in 1975, which gave a new lease of life to the sport. At that stage, the clubs faced a great financial strain. But with the conduct of off-course betting which is now an all India affair, a degree of financial stability has been ensured so much so that off-course betting is now a lifeline of all Turf Clubs of India.
Another successful venture of the BTC has been the operation of the combined Jackpot Pool along with the other Turf Authorities. Initially, many were skeptical about the success. BTC started the joined jackpot pool in association with Madras Racing Undertaking and soon it was an unqualified success. RWITC and RCTC have since joined the pool and one of the biggest attractions for the race-goers has been this combined jackpot. Bangalore has also taken the lead in reducing the gross deductions on win, place and second horse pools in just 2.5 per cent, thereby making the totalizator pools offer more competitive odds than the book markers. The gross deductions on these pools is the lowest in the country.