MRC chairman striving to make Chennai a premier racing centre again

R. Ramakrishnan, chairman, Madras Race Club.  

The Madras Race Club (MRC)’s immediate past was tense and turbulent, but the future looks bright and rosy, said R. Ramakrishnan (RK), chairman of the club, in an interview on Thursday, when the local racing season got under way.

“It was an encouraging start to the season. Many railbirds were happy with the fair and clean competition and despite being mid-week, the response was good reminding one of MRC’s pristine glory,” he said.

Though Dr. M.A.M. Ramaswamy, a doyen of racing and the second-biggest owner this side of Asia (after the Maktoum brothers of Dubai), brought a lot of glory to MRC, thanks to his passion for the sport, somewhere he lost control and decay slowly set in.

After years of decline and monopolistic racing, RK and his dedicated committee members are sparing no efforts to take racing to greater heights and make Chennai a premier centre once again.

Encouraged by the tremendous success of the Invitation Cup held in March, they are striving to get MRC its rightful place among the Turf authorities. “It is a gigantic task to set right the disorder but am confident of reaching the goal in the near future” said RK.

Top-class facilities

Guindy had the best of facilities but somehow lost its place for strange reasons. There was a time when one could boast of its best analytical lab, veterinary hospital, spacious stables and the expanse of the course.

The champion English jockey, Lester Piggott, who won the Invitation Cup race here in the 1980s certified that the course was world class, adding “he had never ridden in a better racecourse anywhere in the world”.

The track then used to be shipshape, well watered and safest. Top trainers and jockeys plied their trade and exhibited their skills. Champion thoroughbreds produced rich fare and the composition of the Board of Stewards was of high order.

Doyens like M.A. Chidambaram, Zamindar of Chikkavaram, P.T. Rajan, Kumararaja of Chettinad, K. Srinivasan, G. Narasimhan, G. Kasturi, S. Rangarajan and J. Thomas, with the assistance of competent officials like D.R. Dogra, R.C. Chaube and R.M. Seth, ensured top drawer racing.

RK, who is passionate about the sport, has liked horses from his riding days. From a racing journalist to a turf administrator, he became the youngest steward in 1972.

He has the distinction of being the only committee member to be elected as steward of two turf authorities (Madras and Bangalore) at the same time. His dedication and loyalty have won him widespread respect and popularity in his four decades of stewardship.

Improve infrastructure and facilities

Now in his second innings as chairman, RK’s priorities are to improve the infrastructure, give a facelift to stands, improve facilities for the public, constitute an arbitrary tribunal, appoint auditors to cancel membership of those who have got in through irregularities and enforce the rules strictly.

The pot of gold which racing is entitled to receive from the bets suddenly vanished as the poor man’s betting window was giving little to no returns. The thrill of wagering was lost over a period of time. So one of RK’s first tasks is to introduce a state-of-the art totalizer. He is happy that the turnover is growing and the collection in every pool is going up by the day.

His ambition is to see that the Club is second to none and educate the public that racing is not gambling but a sport of skill. Every horse is tried and the best horse wins.

To make the fields competitive, the club is throwing open races by extending the deadline for outstation horses to arrive and increase the stakes. The MRC is stepping up stakes for youngsters which will put other centres to shame.

“As the season progresses there will be high quality racing with wider participation from outstation horses. There are also plans to start a racing academy and revive the apprentice jockey school. Initiating steps to ensure quality horses are available in Chennai, the annual auction sales is being revived,” he concluded.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 2:18:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/races/MRC-chairman-striving-to-make-Chennai-a-premier-racing-centre-again/article16436618.ece

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