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Richest Monsoon Season Takes off at Pune - By Mahendra Mallya

Posted on - 24 Jul 2014

Richest Monsoon Season Takes off at Pune
By Mahendra Mallya
The city of Pune may have had to wait a little longer than usual for the monsoon to arrive at its full strength, but the wait for the thundering of hooves is over. The richest and most glamorous of monsoon racing in the country takes off on Thursday, 24th July 2014 with an interesting nine-race card. With the stakes offered being a shade under Rs 12 crores, the season promises an exciting three months of quality racing, which ends on the 26th of October 2014. The performance bonus on offer for the fourth place as well is certain to ensure that the competition on the turf would be at its fiery best.
The RWITC has been a leader where attracting sponsors is concerned. While the regular sponsors continue to extend their support to the sport, the Club's marketing wing has done credibly well in bringing in six new sponsors. "In spite of the general cut down in marketing budgets by several corporates, coupled with the unfamiliarity with the sport in many cases, makes the task of attracting new sponsors that much more difficult. Despite the external environment, the Club has done well in scheduling a packed season of top races spanning the three months of racing," said Mr Vivek Jain, Chairman, RWITC.
The Pune season also attracts the highest number of international sponsorships. The Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Goffs, Coolmore Stud, K Club of Ireland (new Sponsors) Connolly's Red Mills, Thoroughbred Remedies Manufacturing and Tattersalls are big names from across the shores that sponsor races at Pune. Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and Goffs jointly sponsor the RWITC Gold Cup (Grade II) for the third year, while Coolmore, Thoroughbred Remedies Manufacturing and Tattersalls will be sponsoring the Million races.  
The high points of the season will be the two Grade I races - The Nanoli Stud Pune Derby and the Signature Indian St leger the last of the Indian Classics that is traditionally run in Pune. While the United Spirits Ltd, sponsors of the Signature Indian St Leger always add the glitter and glam to each of their events, the IGCC backed Oktoberfest has become a much awaited regular feature on the Nanoli Derby weekend. With a list of German corporates lending their support, the beer fest along with traditional German cuisine and music add an awesome aura to the biggest weekend of the Pune races. The Oktoberfest is into its fifth year and the popularity of this extravaganza has only multiplied over the years.
The newly laid Monsoon track is perhaps the most challenging development to this season. The Rs Three crore project overseen by the Club's Clerk of the Course, Mr B N Nanjapa, took off in November last year and was completed in March this year. Mr Nanjapa was as apprehensive as he was gleeful. "It has been a hard toil and I feel satisfied with the job completed. However, I am bothered about the shortfall of rains in Pune this year. The monsoons have kept away for an agonizingly long period. In fact, I was worried whether we could start the season on schedule. A couple of good showers came as a huge relief. We had a trial on the track with about ten horses galloping on the new track. The feedback from the jockeys has been positive and I also felt the track is shaping up well. It will take a few weeks for the track to settle down. Another few spells of good rains should do the trick. Given time, I am confident that this will be one of the better monsoon tracks in the country. Patience is the key, although I am on the contrary getting a little impatient myself," said Mr Nanjapa.
The new monsoon track runs the distance of the course and is multi layered. The rising ground goes up past the 1600 meter mark and climbs all the way until around the 600m mark. over that distance the rise is just over 40 feet! The track looks lush green and is a beauty of a surface. The calculated camber makes it easier to grip on to the surface particularly while taking the turns and the horses are sure to enjoy the purchase while they pound their hooves. This track is expected to be much safer even in highly wet conditions.
This year will also throw open corporate boxes for the big names in the racing industry. Air-conditioned private boxes line up the top floor of the Grand Stands. For the racing public, an area of around 6000 sq feet has been neatly done up for comfortable seating and viewing of live races. Giant LED screens are located right across the 1st enclosure stands and the food court is just behind the stands for that cuppa or bites between the races.
Keeping to the corporate social responsibility, the Club will ensure days dedicated to social causes. "The Threptin Fillies' & Mares' Stakes will be in aid of the Indian Red Cross. We hope to add more associations to our charitable partnerships in the near future," said Mr Jain. Mr Jain also invited people from the audience to voice their recommendations if any, on charitable organisations who would want to come on board.
A national pyramid for Group races will be in force from 2014-15. The initiative of the Turf Authorities of India will see five graded races added to western India. The Noshir & Dolly Dhunjibhoy Sprint Championship and the traditional Akkasaheb Maharaj Trophy have been accorded the Grade III status from the next Pune Season.    
With every weekend having a graded or sponsored race the Pune season will surely have its colour and fanfare each week. The weather in Pune is what one would want on a vacation. Its chilly and wet and biting cold in the afternoons. With racing getting off the blocks on Thursday, Puneites and visitors are in for an enthralling three months ahead.

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