Mumbai Season sees several new highs for the RWITC - By Vivek Jain
Posted on - 03 May 2011
Mumbai Season sees several new highs for the RWITC
By Vivek Jain
That the 42 day Mumbai Racing Season is the crown jewel in Indian racing is no secret. The performance lived up to the hype as the RWITC rolled out one of the best seasons on its hallowed turf.
With a big event every weekend, four Indian classics, multi millions and millions galore and topped off by a repeat Indian Turf Invitation Cup Weekend put racing on centre stage. 371 races were run over the five and a half month season, as against 354 last year. With over 50 races being divided, and hardly a handful void, the RWITC has perhaps the most owner friendly norms in the country. The per day average of nearly 9 races per day is also the highest in the country.
Our Club is known to host the biggest races in the country, even if the regular handicaps have not kept pace due to financial exigencies. The total prize money pay out at just under 22 crore is a new high. Of this figure, sponsorships totalled 6.76 crore- an unprecedented mark for a single season of racing anywhere in India. The Club hosted several contributors- new and old, with each bringing a distinctive flavour to the day. Indeed, each Sunday was looked forward to by the racing fraternity for its new offerings. The diamond of course was the McDowell Signature Indian Derby, now well past its continuous 25 year run at Mahalaxmi. The stakes surged past the 2 crore mark and with the RWITC signing a mammoth 28 crore agreement with the UB Group for a five year renewal starting 2013, the race is set to touch mega heights.
That the Invitation Cup returned to Mumbai for the second year in a row, was part providence, and part design. With MRC opting out of its commitment, we seized the opportunity to bid for the Weekend and won it without a contest. HDIL, a long time sponsor at the RWITC, readily stepped in with a magnanimous contribution and also hosted the Awards Night. The Awards ceremony, conducted Oscar style in lavish style, drew an attendance of 2,500+ and was universally acclaimed as the best function held by a Turf Authority to honour the year’s champions.
Unfortunately there was not good news all around. Totalisator turnover fell over 20% to just under 30 crore, and fixed odds betting (FOB) tumbled by over 45%- both the result of a 100% tax hike by the State Government. Thankfully a pragmatic decision by the Committee to marginally hike the Club’s share in the betting, stemmed the negative impact on tote earnings- which fell just 6%- quite remarkable in the circumstances. The Club, after years, won a reasonable hike in stall fees-cum-commission from the bookmakers, which, to some extent, offset the decline in tote/ FOB income.
The attendance fell marginally, though the cumulative attendance at 300,000 was fair. Several Sundays were hit by competing attention from the Cricket World Cup and the ongoing IPL series and that was a serious dampener. The decision of the Committee to permit free entry to members may have also resulted in decline in recorded attendance. Yet, there is no gainsaying that the numbers must improve.
The Club’s foray into the social media space and city centric endeavours won applause and are steps in the right direction. Hits on the Club’s Twitter and Facebook sites have multiplied and our innovative feature, Tribe@Turf was stamped as a unique, runaway hit. We hosted the first ever open air symphony, with a show stopper in Kailash Kher, in partnership with NCPA, drew the city’s elite to our lawns and made Mumbai sit up and take notice. We hosted three charity drives and raised well over 30 lakhs for various NGOs under our banner Caring@Turf. And we climaxed these efforts by the very popular Farmers Market, over four separate days that had the media raving over our initiative. These efforts are part of RWITC”s endeavour to undertake culturally and socially responsible activities, that proves the Turf is a fun place to be and proves the Club is willing to walk the extra mile to encompass the non racing fraternity into our fold, with potentially spin off benefits in the long run.
The Club’s web site www.rwitc.com continues to grow in stature. We were the first to experiment with live streaming and soon were streaming the whole card live- probably not done by any race club in the world. Yes, it may have hit a few numbers of live attendance, but its novelty, and utility has been greatly appreciated by the fraternity.
The RWITC will shortly open doors to its revamped Club House, now appropriately named, Hooves. In addition to the state of art fitness club, catering and lounge facilities are being improved with the assistance of a top class hospitality name.
The Club is beset with external challenges- the tax has not yet been rolled back, despite assurances, and we have been hit by a host of levies covering property tax, income tax, service tax and more. These are being either settled or are under litigation. Inspite of these very serious impediments, the Club remains in the black and is forecast to remain so during the year. It is unfortunate the dues from conductors and litigation costs to recover our rightful dues have been outstanding, but for which the Club would have been on much stronger footing. Yet, our reserves remain at an all-time high, which has enabled the Committee to embark on infrastructure projects which have been on the backburner for years.
So, it’s on to Pune, for a July 21 start, and we hope to host an equally exciting and top quality season across the Ghats.