Horse Race Betting In India – Royal Calcutta Turf Club
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) is the oldest and most prestigious of all the horse racing clubs in the Indian subcontinent.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club is located in the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in the state of West Bengal. With a population of 4.5 million (14.1 million including the suburbs), Kolkata is the biggest centre of trade, industry, and culture in the eastern part of India. It is the capital of West Bengal and a major riverine port on the Hooghly River.
The historic Maidan region of Kolkata has been the home of horse racing in the city for well over 200 years. Located on the banks of the river Hooghly, the Maidan and the Turf Club is in the center of Kolkata. Russell Street connects the club to the rest of the city. Landmarks like the Eden Gardens cricket stadium and the Victoria Memorial are close by the Royal Calcutta Turf Club.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club operates the 153-acre Maidan racecourse under a long-standing lease agreement with the government. The Defense Ministry of India therefore owns the grounds. The club facilities are located in the magnificent Apcar House, a Palladian-style mansion from the early 19th century. One of the main attractions of the Royal Calcutta Club is its ease of access: the main stand is open to all members of the public.
The club has also upgraded its facilities in recent years. The number of stables has been almost doubled from 370 to 770. Other facilities include a veterinary hospital, training tracks and other racing-related infrastructure. The club is unique due to its historic British Raj ambience, with the Victoria Memorial visible right from the stands.
The Track Details
At 2800 meters, the race track at Royal Calcutta is among the longest in India. It has one of the oldest monsoon tracks laid in the country, dating back more than 100 years. The track allows races to be held even after the heaviest rains. Green turf is the surface used on the tracks in Calcutta. The race track is usually used for shorter 1000m to 1 mile long races. Even longer classics are also held, but only specially trained thoroughbreds are allowed in those races.
Race Details – Seasons, Stakes, Prize Payouts
Like most turf clubs in India, the RCTC runs two racing seasons in a calendar year. Due to the propensity for heavy monsoon rains in the summers, the track has a specially designed monsoon track with drainage facilities that can handle up to 7 inches of rainfall. The two seasons for racing in Calcutta are
● Monsoon Season – It typically begins in July and ends sometime in the last week of October.
● Winter Season – The winter edition of the races run from November to March.
The monsoon season at Royal Calcutta Turf Club is noticeably shorter. It has 18 race days spread over four months. In contrast, the winter session is longer with 25 race days possible due to the addition of an extra month. Between 400 and 500 horses take part in the Calcutta races each season, accompanied by 40 odd licensed jockeys (half with “A” licenses and another half with “B” licenses)
Though most clubs hold races close to the weekend, the RCTC has a slightly different take on the matter. Here, along with the usual selection of race days on Thursdays and weekends, you can also catch many races on Tuesdays, especially in the monsoon season.
On each race day, there are usually 6-8 races on the cards. These include famous Grade I events, as well as the lesser ranked Grade II and III cup races. For instance, the 2018 Monsoon Season features around 125 races of which 25 were graded cup events. The total stake money for the 2018 season was Rs 5.67 crores, or around £600,000. For the ongoing Cold Weather season 2018-19, the total stakes are pegged at Rs 9.4 crores, or £1 million.
– Raceday Schedule
The RCTC was home to some of the most famous high stakes races in the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Though its stature has somewhat diminished in recent decades, the horse racing club is still home to several famous cups and trophies like the legendary Queens Cup held in winter. The trophy for that race comes from the office of the British Monarch herself. Other notable races include the Calcutta Derby, the Independence Cup, and the Monsoon Derby.
Other notable Cups/races at the RCTC include:
● Calcutta Oaks (Winter)
● Calcutta Juvenile Sprint (Monsoon)
● Colts Trial Stakes (Monsoon)
● Stewards Cup (Monsoon)
● Calcutta 2000 Guineas (Winter)
● Calcutta 1000 Guineas (Winter)
History of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club
In the early days of the British Raj, Bengal was the main center of power in India. Colonial army officers held the first horse races in this part of the country as early as the late 1700s in the city suburbs of Akra. At the turn of the century, Viceroy Wellesley imposed a short-lived ban on the sport in India.
But by 1809, the sport was back in full swing, with the formation of the famous Bengal Jockeys Club and the shifting of the race track to Maidan in Calcutta proper. Founded in 1847, the two-mile Calcutta Derby Stakes was the biggest race at that time. It eventually evolved into the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
By the end of the 1800s, the Calcutta Turf Club had become so prestigious that it was considered the pre-eminent institution for horse racing in the entire Indian subcontinent. This is barring the western region, which came under the Bombay Turf Club. The club was officially given the “Royal” tag when King George visited it for the second time in 1912.
In the 1920s and 30s, the Calcutta Derby was one of the biggest in the world, with its total sweepstakes pool worth almost £1 million (in 1929 and 1930). Around that same time, the club vacated the Maidan grounds and moved to a new facility in Barrackpore. But that move proved to be a financial failure in the following decades and the RCTC finally moved back to its Maidan home in 1954.
– Royal Calcutta Turf Club Post Independence
In its prime, the RCTC has nearly the same authority as prestige as the Jockey Club in England. It was the sole rules authority for over 52 racecourses in British India and Burma. After Indian independence, the club continues to function as an autonomous private club, affiliated to the Turf Authorities of India.
During its 150 year history, the club has witnessed many unique records in Indian racing. Great Scott and Mayfowl were two legendary horses in the late 1800s, owned by the Indian merchant and racing enthusiast Sir Apcar Alexander Apcar. Both horses won the Viceroy’s cup three times. In 1858, an Indian mare won the Viceroy cup for the first time. This feat would remain unmatched for 105 years, until 1964 when another Indian filly by the name of Hovercraft lifted the title.
Char Bahar holds the oldest standing record at the racecourse in the modern era, with a time of 1m 0.04s set in the 1100m race in 1998. In 2017, Colombiana set the most recent record with a time of 2m 0.02s in the 2000m distance race. For more track records, check the race club website here.
Legality of Betting At The Royal Calcutta Turf Club
India has very restricted gambling laws. However, the same is not true for horse racing. In fact, it is one of the few activities in the country where placing bets are completely legal. Though this has been challenged several times in courts, the matter was laid to rest by the Supreme Court in a landmark 1996 ruling. As a result, India allows gambling activities on all race courses.
The RCTC too has betting counters on its premises, but it lags behind the other Turf Clubs when it comes to the technology used. The laws and attitude towards gambling in Calcutta are unfavourable as well, which has so far prevented the Club from opening off-course betting kiosks and centers in other parts of the city. But if you want to place bets offline on races occurring all over India, the RCTC is still your only option in the region.
Betting on Calcutta Turf Club Races Online
India currently has poorly defined online gambling laws. This is a major reason why none of the turf clubs has ventured into the lucrative arena of online gambling. So if you want to bet on horse races in India online, you should consider established online betting platforms.
Since it is not explicitly illegal, many Indians do freely indulge in online gambling on Indian horse races. They usually pick trustworthy sites that offer bets in Indian currency. These include sites like Bet365, BetRally, SpinSports and Bodog. Pay a visit to any one of them to earn attractive promotional offers and free bets.