Forest Flame and Star is Born are getting ready. They will take on Juliet, Own Opinion and others at Guindy this weekend.
These horses are preparing for the prestigious Indian Turf Invitation Cup, widely regarded as one of the biggest events in the sport in the country. With this Diamond Jubilee Year edition, racing returns to Chennai after six years and will see the crème de la crème of the Indian horse racing circuit present.
“This is a huge event which will showcase the best thoroughbred horses across the country,” Madras Race Club President MAMR Muthiah said from the comfort of his sprawling palace in Chettinad. “We want to bring back the glory of Madras racing as it was three decades ago.”
It refers to a time when the sport was more popular than cricket. “He was followed by a lot of people at the time,” he recalls. “Today’s generation has moved on to cricket and forgotten races. Chepauk Cricket Stadium, in fact, was partly funded by the Madras Race Club and at the time there was written correspondence from the Cricket Association to hold Racing Days to raise money for cricket!
MAMR Muthiah during a race | Photo credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B
Muthiah’s date with horses began when he went to the races with his father, MAM Ramaswamy, one of the biggest names in Indian horse racing. “He won nine Invitation Cups, of which I was present for four. I know how difficult it is to win a race; it’s something only horse breeders will understand. Food matters, but pedigree and training are of the utmost importance.When your horse runs, many owners feel the adrenaline rush.
With major horse patrons including the Poonawallas and the Mehras flying out to compete in this renowned event, the Invitation Cup (which originated in 1963) is a chance for the people of Chennai to catch a glimpse of some of the best bred horses in the country.
“We want it to be a festival rather than just a race weekend. We will be honoring people who have done amazing work related to the horse racing industry. This year we will also be involving punters, who will receive a food voucher and free entry, to ensure they are also part of the celebration,” says Muthiah, who also highlights how the pandemic has presented an opportunity to spruce up all of the Club’s sporting infrastructure and equipment.
As the horses and jockeys prepare, Guindy will come to life. Muthiah concludes: “The public has forgotten that a thriving running culture existed in Madras; the Cup will bring that back.
The Chettinad Indian Turf Invitation Cup will be held March 5-6 at Madras Race Club in Guindy. Tickets will be available on site.