Bangalore Turf Club
all began here, more
than 150 years after Kempe Gowda I founded Bangalore. In 1537,Iindian 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.
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.
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 perpetually leased 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.
Apart from an attempt to make the Bangalore Turf Club a limited liability company,
there were other developments in the 1930's:
Improvements to the track, the diversion of Race Course Road for connecting it with
Crescent Road and the provision of water supplies received a lot of attention.
Stipendiary Steward Jack Higgins, who advised the Jockey Club of England on appointing
stipendiary stewards when they sought the RCTC's help, attended a BTC committee meeting in
July 1930. He suggested that the southern side of the course be altered to form a
continuous curve. He also wanted all the turns to be improved by raising the track's outer
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
BTC's Role During War
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 throughout
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,
but under the rules of the BTC.
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
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
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
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.