I’ve been watching and frantically obsessed with the ponies since I was twelve years old and I’ve never in my life seen anything like what I witnessed in my first horse race in India. Being an American in Indian turf racing has been nothing but an adventure. It was definitely a kind of horse race I have never, ever seen before.
Being on holiday in a foreign land for me means ending up at some point at a local turf club among the local bookies, punters and degenerates. So after twenty days in India we just had to check out the local turf club. It was time to go to a horse race.
Just trying to gain access to the Bangalore Turf Club was a circus. Like every other experience in this country we were told three different opinions on how to gain access to the members section ( The VIP section or the premier seats) once we finally figured out how to actually enter the race track you would think things would get easier.
As we stood in a swarm of a mass of a queue I began to think maybe this is a bad idea. There were two girls, two guys and a ten year old girl in our group and we were all dressed like we were on our way to the Kentucky Derby. As we stood in the queue to get tickets my boyfriend commented,
“I feel like we are monk
eys in a zoo” Everyone and I mean everyone was staring at us. There were absolutely no other women at all what so ever in this massive queue and no one was dressed up what’s so ever. I’ve been to some of the cheaper more run down race tracks before and usually at least the owners and trainers are dressed up incase they
“Get their picture taken”
Their horse wins and they get to go in the winners circle.
Once we managed to get inside and get upgraded to the members section we found our way to the paddock area which was one of the craziest things I have ever seen in the twenty years I have been following horse racing!
As we approached the paddock where the horses are paraded around pre race we noticed all the race horses seemed to have practice jockeys on their backs. The “jockeys”were not wearing silks, so I thought, these can not be the actual jockeys for the race, right? As they paraded the horses around the walking ring, the first thing we saw was a horse flip over onto his haunches and almost go one hundred percent over! In the United States a horse who took a tumble like that might be scratched and would definitely be checked out by the vet.
Than the five horse reared up, luckily the practice jockey was not on his back at this point as we peered through the wire fence like you might see at batting cages at a baseball game. Kind of weird how India horse racing keeps you so far isolated from getting near the horses, which kind of makes sense considering the way they were acting like wild mustangs!
After the shenanigans with the five horse I was shocked when the three horse also began bucking and rearing, almost none stop! Not only that but his handlers lost track of the lead shank he was on and it got complexly tangled in his feet as he reared maybe twelve times! Luckily he didn’t get away! Once the shank was handled aging by his groom he started to graze on the grass in the paddock! I was laughing at this point at the absurdity of this race track! A horse grazing in the paddock before the race? We would never, see anything like this in American racing! After this the horses were less hungry and ready to head towards the track. We had arrived late and did not have a program yet so I didn’t know these were two year olds, young horses, possibly running for the first or second time today but still, in America to see one young horse having a melt down pre race might happen but half the field bucking and kicking and flipping out, you just don’t see that!
The spot we had ended up at, I guess it was in the members area; we had a hard time confirming with anyone where the members area actually was and what it consisted of, was right next to the rail and right by the finish line so it was a fantastic spot but even though it was only eighty degrees out it felt blistering hot in the summer sun. As we stood by the rail I was shocked at how overgrown the grass was on the turf race track! It did not look groomed at all and I wondered just how safe it was for horses to gallop over! This wild grass had to be twice as long as our groomed grass at our world class California tracks!
Just trying to get to this area was beyond confusing with my boyfriend trying to speak to employees in broken Hindi and his nephews fiancée trying to use her Hindi but being that us girls were in dresses and Kentucky Derby hats everyone at the race track was beyond confused and out right staring at us. We would get vague answers where to go but they didn’t really make sense.
“This racetrack needs wagering ambassadors” I mentioned to my boyfriend on our way to the paddock. Once the horses were eventually out on the track we took our place at the rail and gad a great time watching the first race, except it was hotter than hell and we thought, we have got to find a place with some more shade!
It was an extremely confusing situation as my boyfriend actually grew up at this race track; his best friends dad was a horse trainer when he was growing up. The stands he thought he was taking us to sit in, what he thought were the “members” stands were actually the trainers and owners stands. Being that he grew up, only sitting in this area, that was his Bangalore Turf Club race track experience. He tried to lead us into the owners and trainers area but we didn’t have the right credentials even if we were dressed for Louisville 2017.
Even though we paid one hundred rupees extra for our “Member” privileges we ended up going back to the cheap seats in general seating and spending the rest of the day up there.
Which was an adventure in itself as we did manage to get awesome, amazing seats right in the front row. Fantastic seats but literally every man that walked past (Like hundreds of them) would try to look up our skirts constantly from below or were just staring at us none stop in between races. It was an experience. The two and a half of us girls were literally the only three females in the entire race track and the track was packed! It was one of the biggest race days of the year for the Bangalore Turf Club and there were probably 50,000 people there.
Good for them; I have no idea how any one had any rupees to gamble though as the currency crisis has really handicapped us and we are half useless cash wise unless we luck out some how and magically find businesses that take international credit cards. Great time in history to go to a horse race, right?
It sucks for India, because tourists want to spend money and we can’t! I would have bet three times more on the ponies but I was on a budget of under 1,000 rupees for the day. I came out doubling my money for the day, which was pretty impressive considering I did not at all understand how their odds worked and I had a hard time reading their hieroglyphics in their racing form.
A fantastic day was had at the India horse race was had, and we happily made two local young Bangalore racing fans (Young people, something our dying sport needs in a desperate way) All in a day off for India’s only race track ambassador!