The stakes are quite high

The stakes are quite high

A racing tradition

In 1923, the land, now occupied by the BTC was perpetually leased by the Maharaja for as long as it was utilised as a race course.

The sport grew and thrived, receiving added impetus with the Supreme Court recognising it as a game of skill. Bangalore became the most important racing centre in India with an annual turnover of Rs 1,000 crore (Hyderabad ranks second with 300 crore). Over 20,000 professionals are involved and over 1,000 thoroughbred horses (valued at Rs 4 lakh each) are trained and raced. Formalising the contract, the Karnataka Government entered into a 30-year lease agreement with the BTC in the 80s, which is due to expire in 2010.

However, the BTC agreed to vacate the land in December 2009 on the government promise of a larger land allotment on the outskirts of the City, a three year tax holiday and sufficient time to construct a new course. With the deadline drawing near and the Chief Minister issuing eviction notices to vacate by December 31, come hell or high water, the situation has reached a crisis point, forcing the BTC to take its collective head out of the sand and call for an AGM to decide on a course of action to save themselves and Bangalore racing fraternity from total annihilation.

There are ominous rumours about mega building projects and the land mafia’s involvement. Bangaloreans would really want to know: What is to become of the 63 acres of prime lung space in the City if and when the Turf Club moves out?

“In a City that is choking with pollution and where it’s impossible to find an open lung space, there are wonderful things that can be done with the BTC land. What is frightening though is a remark by the CM about a 250-storey high building coming up in its place. The Chikkajala land promised cannot be legally handed over for the new race course. We have sent a letter to the CM from prominent Bangaloreans expressing our deep concern about the proposed use of the land and gathered thousands of signatures but have not yet received a response. One of our most prominent environmentalists Zafar Futehally has worked tirelessly to raise awareness on this issue though he is 90 years old. It’s time for every concerned Bangalorean to get involved and not take the issue lightly.
Subbarao Prabhala
Chairman, Bangalore
Environment Trust

The land promised (which is on a lake bed and illegal) has not yet been allotted. Even the Central Jail was fully rebuilt before it was vacated. The inmates were not sent elsewhere or asked to take a two-year holiday like we have. We earn the government Rs 60 crore as annual revenue. What is the urgency to shift? We do need more land to develop and the pollution is bad for our horses but we need to go about it in a phased manner.
Kumar Sidanna
Former chairman, BTC

“Any disruption in the sensitive balance of a vibrant racing industry should be of great concern even to those not directly involved. Besides, there is a dependence of several large and small businesses and industries, from hospitality to the peanut sellers, on the sport. Horse racing has been accepted as an integral part of the City's social and entertainment fabric and structure.
Fin Powrie
Advisor (Racing) to BTC 

If traffic congestion is the reason cited for the shift then all schools, cinemas and malls should also be shut down. The Prime Minister lives comfortably opposite the race course in Delhi and race courses thrive in the heart of most major cities providing them with much needed lung space.

 “With the ad-hoc closing of the race course without any contingent plan firmly in place, Bangalore will not only lose a highly skilled sport but a heritage and a brand that has taken decades to build. The Bangalore Kingfisher Derby is one of the most sought after events in the racing calendar not only because of the level of competition but because it is synonymous with glamour and lifestyle, promoting the City as a hot spot, tourist destination. Bangalore is the only racing centre that can sustain the sport right through the year and closing it will have a cascading effect on all other centres as well. Our horses are priceless thoroughbreds which cannot be treated in cavalier fashion and relocated at anybody's whims and fancies.
Zeyn Mirza
Managing Director, United Racing and Bloodstock Breeders Ltd

The BTC has already given up 24 acres (out of 87) for traffic decongestion projects like road widening and flyover construction. The CM has suggested that we relocate to Mysore. He has never stepped into the race course and has no idea of the huge infrastructure involved and the time and money required to duplicate it. Mysore can house 400 horses and already has 500, where will our 1000 horses go? Their track is very small and there are no facilities. We signed our lease under duress, threat of water and power being shut off and the promise that if we signed, we would be given both facilities and enough time to shift. We still have nothing from the government but an ultimatum.
Y Jaganath
Government nominee and committee member, BTC

There is an urgent need for the government to work with the BTC to end this impasse through discussion and dialogue so that racing is not wiped out in Bangalore.
B Puttanna
Trainers’ Association

A part of Bangalore’s sporting heritage, which has been cultivated over 100 years, will be destroyed in a matter of months. The repercussions will be devastating. From the hospitality industry to the farmer who grows feed, daily wage earners, commentators and skilled professionals, several thousand people who depend on racing for their livelihood will be out on the streets if the move goes through in this fashion with no contingency plan in place.
Sinclair Marshall
Jockeys’ Association

Jackie Pinto

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