Horse Racing in Asia

Horse racing in Asia seems to have taken a step back in time if we consider the rich genetic resources of the continent with respect to equine species. Martial races used horses for farming and transport, apart from in war, and new breeds were brought in from exotic parts of the globe at regular intervals. However, it was left to the British to introduce modern horse racing to Asia.

They did this principally in what is now India, and concentrated on providing racecourses, stables, and training infrastructure in the cities of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata), Poona (now Pune), and Bangalore (which could soon be renamed Bangalooru). The hilly tracts of Ooty (now Ootacamund) were also a site for a racecourse, maybe in deference to the familiar weather!

The renaming of all the places where the British established horse racing is symbolic of the reaction to foreign rule after India became independent. Horse racing also became a victim of fervent nationalism, and the sport spent most of the second half of the 20th century in the doldrums in India. The British had used the sport largely for their own enjoyment, and only a few wealthy members of the local communities were ever able to participate in horse racing events. The lay public was intentionally excluded from enjoying events, and they reacted with anger and neglect when they came to power.

Illegal betting rings throng Indian horse racing centers. The stewardship is of questionable standards, and the purses are miniscule in dollar terms. Stables are archaic, and the tracks and grounds of racecourses suffer from low investment and decay. It is nearly impossible to negotiate the bureaucratic procedures to bring in thoroughbreds from other countries, and top jockeys rarely visit the country. Hong Kong and Singapore are now way ahead of Indian horse racing.

This could change soon. Just as India and China now rule the world in new economic growth, the same transformation is possible in horse racing as well. Indian politicians have manifested a great deal of interest in bringing Formula 1 events to the country, and it only remains to enthuse them in the profits and pleasures of horse racing!

back to International