Royal Western India Turf Club
The Royal Western India Turf Club is an elite sports club in Mumbai, India.
The Royal Western India Turf Club has a history spanning just over two centuries. It conducts racing at Mumbai's Mahalaxmi race course (from November to April) and Pune (from July to October), while Delhi races under its Rules.
Its first meeting was held 10th–11th January 1798, with two plates run in heats. Breakfast was served on the high grounds opposite Colonel Jones’ house and Captain G. Hall saluted the last race with fifteen guns.
Captain G. Hall, Sir Charles Forbes, A. Campbell, P. Hadow and others formed the Bombay Turf Club in 1802 and they acquired land in Byculla to conduct racing; the balcony of the clubhouse was used as a private stand for the Members. Shortly thereafter the name was changed to the Western India Turf Club.
For the major part of the nineteenth century, racing continued to be held at Byculla until in 1883 the venue was shifted to Mahalakshmi on land made available by Sir C N Wadia. The race course was originally built under the direction and supervision of Major JE Hughes.
During this time Calcutta held the upper hand in Indian racing, but as the twentieth century dawned, Bombay became the “City of Gold.”
The first running of the Eclipse Stakes of India in 1923 gave Bombay a race to rival the Viceroy’s Cup. New stands were commissioned in 1925 and then in 1935, King George V bestowed the privilege of prefixing the club’s name with “Royal.” In 1943 the first Indian Classics were run and when 21 years later the Indian Turf Invitation Cup came into being, Mahalakshmi was the chosen venue for its first running.
Pune, 3 hours drive south-east of Bombay, the other centre at which the Royal Western India Turf Club conducts its racing is quite different. It is a monsoon track and is where the main Club House (with accommodation and ballroom) is. The track is tighter and has a shorter run-in, with the variable underfoot conditions making for some expected results. Many horses from Calcutta traditionally come over to Pune for their “summer spelling” and get ready for the big Cup Races on their home turf in the winter.
The club’s membership stands at about 7,850 with the “club” class (the only category allowed to vote) members at 1,675.
Broadly speaking, the categories of membership are: Life, Club, Stand and Invitee.
Entrance fees for Life membership stands at Rs 1,000,000 or roughly equivalent to US $22,000. Life members who have had a direct interest in racing for at least 5 years and wish to apply to convert to "club" class will have to pay a conversion fee of Rs 100,000 or roughly equivalent to US $2,200.
The membership base, in particular the club members, represent India's upper crust. Some of the more prominent members include:
- Vijay Mallya: Chairman of the United Breweries Group, Kingfisher Airlines and Force India F1 Team.
- Cyrus Poonwalla: Chairman of the Poonawalla Group, which constitutes the Serum Institute (world’s largest producer of Measles and DTP group of vaccines) and Poonawalla Stud Farms, to name a few.
- Madhur Bajaj: Vice Chairman of Bajaj Auto, world’s fourth largest maker of two-wheelers.
- Pune: Accommodation of 25 rooms & 4 cottages, Ballroom with 300 capacity, Bar, Victoria Room and Lawn.
- Bombay: Mini Clubhouse (ie restaurant), Card Room, Bar Lounge and Health Club. There are plans to build accommodation, tennis courts and swimming pool.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England, the erstwhile Shah of Iran and the King of Saudi Arabia have visited the Mahalaxmi Race Course.
- Royal Western India Turf Club – official Web site.