Calcutta served as the Capital of British India for the major part of its rule. As a result, there was a huge army presence in the city and being a cavalry based army, horse dependent sports like hunting, polo and racing were naturally popular.
So, it is logical that one of the oldest and most arguably most prestigious Turf Clubs in India, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, was founded way back in 1847. Records of horse racing in Calcutta go as far back as 1769 in the suburbs of Akra, where they were held for around 40 years, before racing was briefly banned by Governor Lord Richard Wellesley in 1798. But, horse racing was soon back after a short gap of 5 years, and it moved to the present area of Maidan in 1809.
The Royal Calcutta Turf Club was founded in 1847 to regulate all aspects of horse racing in Calcutta. Calcutta was the first place in the subcontinent to hold a Derby Race, called the Calcutta Derby Stakes, which was discontinued and replaced by the Viceroy’s Cup in 1856. In time it came to wield a lot of authority and was at par with the Jockey Club in England, with respect to arbitration about rules and regulations. In its heydays, the races organised by the RCTC were inaugurated by the Viceroy of India. In 1912, the race was attended by King George V and the club added “Royal” to its name.
The races continue to this day, and the race on 1st January is attended by the who’s who of Calcutta in their finest western attire.
I had the opportunity to witness the 1st January Derby this year, and managed to capture some of the moments.
Hope you enjoyed the captures! 🙂