Horsing around: Cyrus Poonawalla upset over lack of Indian participation in Asian Racing Conference

2Cyrus Poonawalla is not very happy. No, it’s not about Lincoln House, the landmark Breach Candy property he purchased but which is stuck in formalities. It’s to do with the poor Indian participation at the 36th Asian Racing Conference (ARC), being held in Mumbai from January 24-29. The conference has come to India after two decades. For Poonawalla, the chairman of the ARC organising committee, and RWITC, which is hosting ARC on behalf of Turf Club of India, it’s a matter of prestige.

Poonawalla’s dissatisfaction is particularly towards trainers and breeders. Amongst the 600-plus people who have signed up for the conference, about 135 are Indian. But the number includes few trainers and breeders, Poonawalla laments. When ETPanache spoke to Poonawalla on January 18, barely five trainers had registered and not a single jockey. However, at the time of going to press, the number of trainers, jockeys and owners had increased by 20.

Santosh Bane (Image: BCCL)
Santosh Bane (Image: BCCL)
This, Poonawalla pointed out, was despite offering 50 per cent concession in the registration fee (Rs 45,000). “Do you think I should subsidise the trainers to come? I don’t mind,” he says. “I will pay 25 per cent of their registration fees.”

Why is there a lack of interest from trainers and breeders? The chairman of the Poonawalla Group believes that they are more interested in criticising the racing administration from their armchairs “instead of putting their hands in the pocket and spending their time attending this unique opportunity. It’s a pity. Most trainers can easily afford Rs 45,000 for a five-day business conference like this with night entertainment. We are only covering up our costs.”

Even owners have not shown much interest. “Four or five owners have registered. Three of them I forced,” he says. “It’s sad. Last conference also they did the same thing. There were three representatives.”

Stud farm visit

At the end of the conference, Poonawalla will host delegates at the Poonawalla Stud Farms in Pune. Around 125 delegates are expected for the visit. The tour includes a Parsi lunch with champagne, a Poonawalla hospitality tradition.

But besides that, Poonawalla said they wanted to show visitors Indian thoroughbred breeding, the condition of the stallions, the mares, the infrastructure of the paddocks, etc. “We will explain how we bring up the thoroughbreds,” he says.


Meanwhile, Poonawalla felt that the two topics that would be of particular relevance to India at the conference were on drug free racing and stewarding. “These are two important issues for which we need guidance,” he says.

‘Betting tax must be lowered’

“The trouble in sustaining and promoting Indian racing is that the betting tax, especially in Maharashtra, which at 20 per cent, is the highest in the world, must be reduced. Without that, a lot of people who come, find the betting tax so exorbitantly high that the revenue we get from betting is shrinking day by day.”

On Lincoln House

“Lincoln House is progressing but since we have signed a confidentiality agreement with the Americans (US Consulate), I cannot discuss anything about it.”

Published on Economic Times