Pune: The sport of racing is at the crossroads with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) apparently threatening to bring down income of the races courses and in that backdrop the 102nd Annual General Meeting of the Royal Western India Turf Club assumes importance on two counts—who assumes control of the club in the scheduled election on Monday and what legacy he inherits considering there have been allegations of large scale non-payment of taxes.
In this back-drop, Khushroo Dhunjibhoy has thrown his hat into the ring against the incumbent Vivek Jain, who is accused of not addressing the situation arising out of 28 percent GST imposed on racing.
Dhunjibhoy, one of the biggest promoters of the sport, a stud farm owner and horse owner, has been credited with earning profits for the RWITC when he last held the top office.
Since then, the finances of the RWITC have nose-dived something that the new chairman will have to seriously address to.
The closure of Bangalore Turf Club following non-extension of racing license is a stark reminder for the RWITC to pull up its socks and do something significant to improve the club’s finances.
As Dhunjibhoy has again entered the race to lead the RWITC, there is a hope that this time around he will be able to carry out the reforms he had intended last time, but due to very small period he got to steer the club, not much could be implemented.
Passionate about racing
Dhunjibhoy has been an able administrator of the sport, having been the Chairman of Royal Western India Turf Club for five years in a row besides being associated with various organisations connected with horse racing.
He is also the Vice-President of the National Horse Breeding Society of India which is primarily responsible for racing to survive the critical times when the governments had given a grace period of six years to wind up all operations during the years 1947-53. It has been more than a month of racing in Pune this season, but the usual enthusiasm is missing for sure.
Race-goers are hoping against hope for improvement in racing standards as also better regulation. Least the racing fraternity expect is that the RWITC’s new committee does something different than what has been done in the recent past.
If elected, Dhunjibhoy and his panel will have to address all these issues, including the punters’ grievances over the extra time being given that the starting gates that has allowed a chance for manipulation and sharing of tips.
Pune sets the tone for racing
In an interview with Sakal Times, Khushroo Dhunjibhoy spoke about his passion for horse racing and why Pune racing is dear to him. Following are the excerpts:
Time for another exciting Indian Derby and Pune Derby?
The Indian Derby is, really, the event of the year for horse racing. The preparation starts from the Pune season. The horses are trained with the target of ultimately running in the Derby.
What about the horses profile over the years?
The Poonawalla Breeders Million gives a pointer, although very few horses that have won the Poonawalla Million have gone to win the Indian Derby. But generally we find horses which are mature, when they are three or four years old, that come into the classic reckoning. It takes time to develop the musculature of the horse.
What about the punter profile?
We depend on the small punters for revenue. The tax structure is ridiculous in the State. We give 20 per cent to the State, the club charges 10 per cent and this kills the punter’s zeal. He does not get value for money.