THE Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) authorities have cleared the final hurdle, making the January 31 start for the Mahalaxmi racing season a certainty.
The race club received a notification on Saturday signed by the secretary of the Animal Husbandry Department of state government which preponed the earlier ban deadline of February 15.
"We have received the official confirmation," said a relieved Vivek Jain, chairman of stewards and head of marketing, RWITC, while speaking to MiD DAY, "The horses started moving from Pune yesterday, and racing will start at Mahalaxmi from January 31."
More than 1,000 racehorses were stranded at Pune due to a government ban on movement of horses in the wake of the Equine Influenza (EI) epidemic in October last year. Fortunately, some wise co-ordination between horse owners, trainers, jockeys and the club authorities ensured that most of them are racing fit, thanks to a cautious but well-planned work-out schedule going on for more than a month now.
The club has framed a truncated, 28-day Mahalaxmi racing season, and the most heart-warming news for race lovers and horse owners is that none of the five Indian Classics will be abandoned.
Four of the five Classics have been rescheduled thus: 1000 Guineas (March 1), 2000 Guineas (March 8), Indian Oaks (March 22) and McDowell Indian Derby (April 5), while the fifth Classic, the Indian St Leger, is postponed to the Pune 2009 season that will begin in August 2009. Another important race, the grade 1, Poonawalla Breeders Multimillion, will be run on March 29.
The club will not be able to accommodate the Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend which comes to Mahalaxmi once in five years. However, talks are on with the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) to host it this year and swap their next year's turn with Mahalaxmi during the 2009-10 Mumbai racing season.
January: Sat, 31st, February: Sun, 1st; Sun, 8th; Thu, 12th; Sun, 15th; Thu, 19th; Sun, 22nd; Thu, 26th, March: Sun, 1st; Thu, 5th; Sun, 8th; Thu, 12th; Sun, 15th;
Thu, 19th; Sun, 22nd; Thu, 26th; Sun, 29th, April: Sat, 4th; Sun, 5th; Sat, 11th; Sun, 12th; Sat, 18th; Sun, 19th; Sat, 25th; Sun, 26th, May: Fri, 1st; Sat, 2nd; Sun, 3rd. (Total 28 days).