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TROT WITH THE TIMES - By Shailendra Awasthi I TNN

Posted on - 20 Jan 2011

By Shailendra Awasthi
Horse racing arouses as much passion among racecourse regulars as a cricket fan in India. With a little over a fortnight remaining for the Indian Derby (Feb 6), the biggest race of the country, TOI will traverse the route taken by the sport in the country over the years. In the first of a series, beginning today, we showcase the history of the sport

Like cricket, horse racing in India has been the legacy of the British Raj. The armies of the 18th and 19th centuries were cavalry-oriented and the overwhelming involvement with horses led to organising of equine sports like polo and horse racing. Those days most of the 170 cantonments in British India used to have their own little race courses and race meetings.
Kolkata, where the East India Company was based, was the undisputed headquarters of Indian racing from 1772 till 1886.
Meanwhile, a group of Britishers based in Bombay__Charles Forbes, G Hall, A Campbell and P Haddow__ started the Bombay Turf Club in 1800 at the Byculla Club Grounds, acquired through the good offices of Dorabji Rustomji, the Patel of Bombay. Racing shifted to Mahalaxmi in 1883, built on the marshy land donated by industrialist Cusrow N Wadia. Soon, it grew in stature and became one of the best centres in undivided India. In 1886, there was a shift in power when Bombay and Kolkata became the ruling authority of the sport in the country.
 In the late 1970s, all the five clubs formed the Turf Authorities of India. It was more of a consultative forum which retained the independence of its constituents. The chairman is selected among the five clubs by rotation.
The first-generation Indian owners were the Maharajas of Cooch-Behar, Burdwan, Baroda, Idar, Morvi, Kolhapur, Rajpipla and Mysore among others. They started racing their horses at Mahalaxmi__and later also in Pune.
Later on, industrialists like the textile tycoon Mathuradas Goculdas and the Thackerseys joined their ranks. Some of them even had their horses running in England. Two of the then big owners in Britain__Aga Khan and Victor Sassoon__too had their horses competing at Mahalaxmi.
The trend has continued with the rich and the famous personalities owning the top horses. —

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