Mahalaxmi Racecourse is the Indian version of the Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. Located in Mumbai, the racecourse hosts races annually from November to April. It is one of the region’s oldest and most popular racecourses and is presently run by the Royal Western India Turf Club, a Mumbai-based elite sports club.
Mahalaxmi Racecourse is home to many notable races, including the five Indian classic races, the most prominent being the Indian Derby, which is held on the first Sunday of February every year. The races held at the racecourses attract members of the elite society, and a considerable amount of money is exchanged in the form of betting.
Mahalaxmi Racecourse History
Mahalaxmi Racecourse was built in 1883. The land used for the racecourse’s construction was a marshy flatland 100 years ago, known as the Mahalaxmi Flats.
The land where Mahalaxmi is located was contributed by Sir Cusrow N Wadia, a renowned businessman and philanthropist. Currently, it is on a perpetual lease from the MCGM (Municipality Corporations of Greater Mumbai to the Royal Western Indian Turf Club. Among many of Sir Cusrow Wadia’s philanthropic ventures, one was the provision of interest-free loans to the Royal Western India Turf Club.
The Royal Western India Turf Club was originally formed as the Bombay Turf Club and changed its name in 1864, with deliberations over shifting to a new venue. Racing was shifted to the Mahalaxmi marshy flatlands in 1878. However, the land was deemed inadequate for racing as access to the course was quite difficult and a foul odour emanated from a nearby drain. Thus racing was discontinued after only one season of racing. Racing formally shifted to Mahalaxmi Racecourse in 1883.
Originally Mahalaxmi racecourse was leased for 99 years, which ended on 31st May 2013. When the lease ended, many people advocated converting the racecourse land into a public park, while a significant number of individuals opposed the idea, fearing that there would be encroachments and the area would soon fill up with slums. However, the government supported leasing out the racecourse for another 30 years.
Mahalaxmi Racecourse Facilities
Mahalaxmi Racecourse is spread out over an area of 225 acres and presents a splendid view of the Arabian Sea. It is designed along the lines of Melbourne’s Caulfield Racecourse and is oval. The track is 2400m in circumference with a straight chute.
The grandstand of Mahalaxmi Racecourse is recognised as one of the landmarks of Mumbai and a designated heritage structure. The structure was built in the 1880s with beautiful architecture and carries a lot of historical significance. The government is striving to retain the structure and preserve its ancient architecture. Over 100 horses are trained at the racing venue before the beginning of the racing season.
The racecourse hosts various races from November to April. The total number of race days at Mahalaxmi Racecourse is 43. Renowned personalities, including wealthy businessmen, celebrities, actors and other gentry members, attend these racing events.
The racecourse features special lawns used for various occasions, including weddings, parties and other outdoor events. The lawns have a capacity to accommodate around 1500 to 2000 people.
The Mumbai locals use the racecourse for walking and jogging in the mornings and evenings within the specified timings during the six months when no races are held at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. People can use the inner 2.2km dirt track for their activity while having a closer look at the horses. The inner green area is also accessible and can be used for exercise and stretching.
Additionally, Mahalaxmi Racecourse is used as a helipad as well, and is the only helipad in South Mumbai that is available for use for civilians.
Events at Mumbai Racecourse
Derby Day is one of the biggest events at Mumbai Racecourse, drawing in crowds from all over the city. The highlight of the racing calendar, the Indian Derby is held on the first Sunday of February every year. The race is run over a distance of 2,400 metres and is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. The winner of the Indian Derby is awarded the prestigious trophy and a cash prize of over INR 1 crore.
On Derby Day, the racecourse is transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere, with live music, food stalls, and fashion shows. The dress code is formal, with men expected to wear suits and ladies to dress in elegant dresses and hats.
Ladies’ Day is another popular event at Mumbai Racecourse, held in March every year. It is a day dedicated to celebrating women and their contribution to horse racing. Ladies’ Day is a chance for women to dress up in their finest clothes and enjoy a day out with friends and family.
On Ladies’ Day, there are fashion shows, beauty contests, and other events designed to celebrate women. There are also special prizes for the best-dressed lady and the best hat.
New Year’s Eve Party
New Year’s Eve at Mumbai Racecourse is a glamorous affair, with a party held on the last day of the year. The party is a chance to celebrate the end of the year with friends and family, and to welcome in the new year in style.
The party features live music, dancing, and a spectacular fireworks display at midnight. There are also food and drink stalls, and a dress code of formal attire is expected.
What is the Indian Derby?
The Indian Derby, currently named McDowell’s Indian Derby for sponsorship purposes, is named after the UK’s Epsom Derby. It is a prominent Group I thoroughbred race held at Mahalakshmi Racecourse in February every year. The race was held for the first time in 1943 and runs over a distance of 2400m.