‘Horse racing needs alternatives to tie in with cashless economy’

Kolkata, Jan 16 (IANS) The sport of horse racing in India will have to find alternatives to integrate with a cashless economy post-demonetisation, says horse-owner and writer Lynn Deas.

“Well, today you come on the race. you want to put cash out. Who has cash these days? You can’t come on the racing course and pay via credit card. It will pick up. One will have to find alternatives. In Bengaluru, for example, entire bookies ring has been done away with and today you have tote windows that accept Rs. 50,000 and a lakh of rupees,” Deas told IANS here.

Deas was in the city to launch her book “Horse Racing in India: A Royal Legacy” at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Fest. The book illustrates the glorious history of Indian racing.

Asserting that there is no dearth of horse owners, Deas said the 250-year-old sport needs government support.

“Unfortunately, racing per se has always been at the mercy of the way the government thinks, whether it was during the British Raj or whether it is after Independence… If you had a Prime Minister or President who was interested in this sport and wanted it promoted, racing took off. If you had somebody like Morarji Desai (Prime Minister from 1977 to 1979)… he wanted to stop racing all over India,” she said.

“But it survived because you always fought back and you fought back with the principles of racing and you fought back with the passion for racing,” Deas added.

The book is written in chronological order, and details and celebrates, among other things, horse breeding in India, races of historical importance and significance and illustrious jockeys and trainers. It also includes intriguing information about famed owners and equally famous horses, and vision statements by the chairmen of the major turf clubs in the country.

Deas has been the proud owner and has been associated with some of the finest thoroughbred horses over the past 25 years, including Derby and Classic winners, who have earned praise and have gone ahead to make a name for Indian racing abroad. She is also the publisher of Racing World, India’s only equestrian racing magazine, launched in 2003.

Referring to the popularity of the sport in countries such as Ireland and Australia, Deas hoped in India, the sport would be allowed to continue.

“Lot of other sports are now taking precedence. People want to sit in their homes and watch on TV but the thrill of the horse racing isn’t comparable when you are out there on the course,” she said.

Asked on claims by animal welfare activists on cruelty to the animals, Deas maintained the thoroughbreds are “spoiled and pampered”.

“They live in stables which is sometimes bigger than what a family would live in, in India. They are fed special food and they have special attendants,” she added.