Horse racing, a major activity of the annual summer tourist season in this hill station, will get underway at the course sprawling over 55 acres in the heart of the town on April 16.

It will be the 125th edition of the activity, the commencement of which has over the years been conventionally considered the beginning of the non-stop flow of visitors to the summer getaway.

Though the number of persons patronising horse races here has come down considerably, the sight of horses galloping in the high altitude race course continues to be a unique tourist attraction.

With the venue humming with activity, Secretary of Madras Race Club (MRC), B.K. Amanullah Khan, told The Hindu here on Wednesday that there would be 28 race meetings. While the number of horses in station was 500, 15 trainers and about 40 jockeys are expected to vie for the honours.

Pointing out that all the meetings would be held in the morning, Mr. Khan said the Nilgiris 1000 Guineas would be run on April 24, the Nilgiris 2000 Guineas on May 1, and the Nilgiris Derby Stakes on May 8.

The Nilgiris Gold Cup, the traditional and most popular race, will be run on May 22.

It will coincide with the Annual Floral Carnival, the main attraction of the tourist season here.

A view being subscribed to by an increasing number of persons here is that the MRC should help the local authorities add value to tourism in this holiday destination. The consensus is that the race course should be made attractive by laying a garden inside the ground. Some recalled that about 20 years ago, the Department of Horticulture had commenced work on creating a garden in the middle of the course.

However, since it was not maintained, it had gone to seed. If the Madras Race Club and the local authorities join hands, it could be made one of the most beautiful spots in the Nilgiris. An official of the Horticulture Department said it was possible to create a garden without disturbing the racing track, the area for exercising horses and the paddocks. Referring to the fall in the number of persons showing interest in racing, regular punters are of the opinion that if the ambience of the course is improved, tourists will come to it to enjoy the garden and also witness a few races during summer. Concern is also growing over the race course presenting an unkempt look during the better part of the year and the practice of burning wild growth just before the start of the racing season.

It is harmful to the environment and also affected the people particularly those with respiratory problems.

Keywords: Ooty racing