Royal Calcutta Turf Club

Founded in 1847, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club ranks amongst the oldest racecourses in India. It is located in the famous city of Kolkata, which was previously known as Calcutta. This is in the West Bengal State. Kolkata is the largest trade center in the eastern part of India. It is also the capital of West Bengal. And has a population of over 4.5 million people.

The Royal Calcutta Turf Club sits on a massive 153-acre piece of land, which belongs to the Indian Ministry of Defense. The Turf Club has a lease agreement with the Indian government on this land.

The Apcer House, which was built in the early 19th century houses the Calcutta Turf Club facilities. It is a spectacular structure built in the Palladian architectural style. The design of this club makes it easily accessible to the public.

In recent years, the club has revamped its facilities. The stables have been increased from 370 to a staggering 770.

Some of the other notable facilities developed by the Calcutta Turf Club include a modern veterinary hospital and state of the art training tracks.

The club has a rich history since the days of the British Raj. This is marked by the Victoria Memorial, which is visible from the stands.

History of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club

When the British army first arrived in India, they settled in Calcutta. They actively participated in sports like polo, horse racing, and hunting. That is how they spent their free time. Unbeknownst to them, they were building what would be a strong foundation for horse racing in India.

In January 1769, the first organized horse race took place. It was held in Akra, a racecourse that was located a few miles away from Calcutta. The races would continue to be held in this premises for the next four decades.

As you’d expect, the early race tracks were narrow, rough, and temporary. In 1798, horse racing in Calcutta would suffer its first blow after the then governor, Lord Wellesley forbid horse racing. For five years, there were no organized horse racing competitions.

After what seemed like an eternity for the people who were already accustomed to horse racing, the ban was lifted. In 1803, horse racing in Calcutta resumed. The Bengal Jockey Club oversaw all the racing activities in Akra.

The races were moved from Akra to Maidan in 1809. This is a popular area in Calcutta that still holds horse races today. In 1812, the club unveiled a new race track where the Calcutta racecourse sits today. This was followed by the construction of a large stand in 1820. Over the years, the Calcutta racecourse has undergone numerous makeovers.

Initially, the races were only held in the morning, right after the sun rose. The races were about 2.5 miles long.

The tracks not only tested the speed of the horses but also their stamina. If the morning hours weren’t enough to complete the races, the horses had to resume after sunset. Normally, the British press would be tasked with publishing the results of the Calcutta horse races.

The Calcutta Welter was recognized as the main horse racing event in those days. In 1825, the club decided to move this event to the new racecourse. By 1845, the Calcutta Derby had been introduced. This was a high stake event with a highly coveted price. The race was graced by maiden Arabs and it was 4 kilometres long.

On February 20, 1947, the Calcutta Turf Club was officially unveiled. The main objective of this newly formed club was to regulate all horse racing activities in Calcutta. A free and fair election was held through a ballot to elect members of the club. The affairs of the club would be run by a 5 member committee and five stewards.

In 1856, the famed Calcutta Derby would be replaced by the Viceroy Cup. This prestigious horse racing competition became an invite-only affair for the spectators. Lord Ulrich Browne went on to dominate the Calcutta horse racing scene in 1860. He introduced and revised some of the horse racing rules.

By 1880, a monsoon race track had been constructed. Also, horse racing had gained massive popularity in India. New viewing stands were built and races began to be held during the afternoons. In 1912, King George V happened to visit the club for a second time. For this reason, the word “Royal” was added to the Calcutta Turf Club.

Calcutta Turf Club gambling history

Gambling on horse racing was common in England. This led to the adoption of gambling practices at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club in India. Pari-mutuel betting was started in 1872. By 1887, Lord William Beresford had introduced the Royal Calcutta Turf Club Derby draw.

This draw became a private sweepstake. When World War I ended, this sweepstake awarded £ 75,000 for the winning horse. The horses that took the second and third positions took home £35,000 and £15,000, respectively.

During the 1929-1930 season, the pool money was slightly shy of a whopping £1,000,000. Only members of the RCTC were allowed to bet on these races. The only other exception was for friends who requested the members to place a wager on their behalf. Various methods were devised to allow people from other countries to bet on the Royal Calcutta Turf Club Races.

The Royal Calcutta Turf Club race track

The Royal Calcutta Turf Club boasts of having one of the longest racing tracks in India, which is 2800 meters long. Some of its monsoon race tracks are a century old. The track can withstand heavy rains, meaning that races can still be held right after a downpour. The race track surface is made of green turf and is mostly used for short races (usually 1 mile).

Since the monsoon racing season is marked by heavy rain, the race track has a comprehensive drainage system that can withstand up to 7 inches of rainfall.

Racing seasons

There are only two racing seasons at the RCTC. That is the monsoon and the winter season. The monsoon season begins in July and ends in late October while the winter season runs from November to March.

Among the two seasons, the monsoon season is the shortest. It consists of 18 race days spread out across four months.

The summer season is longer than the monsoon season with one month and has a total of 25 race days.

In each of these seasons, there are about 400-500 horses involved in the races. 40 jockeys participate in these races. 20 of them have A-class racing licenses while the rest have B-class licenses.

In regards to its racing schedule, the RCTC operates differently from other Turf Clubs. It holds its races during the weekends or on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the monsoon season.

Most common high-stake events at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club

Currently, the monsoon season racing stakes can hit the £600,000 mark, while those in the winter season can reach a record high of £ 1 million. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, the RCTC had some of the most outrageously high stake events. It hasn’t been able to replicate the same in recent times. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the Turf Club has lost its glory.

The club still holds some of the most anticipated horse racing cups in India. These include the winter season Queen’s Cup whose awarded cup comes from England, right from the British Monarch.

Other renowned races held at the RCTC include the Calcutta Juvenile Sprint, Monsoon Derby, and the Independence Cup.

Here is a list of other common races and cups held at RCTC;

  • Colts Royal Stakes
  • Calcutta Oaks
  • Stewards Cup
  • Calcutta 1000 Guineas
  • Calcutta 2000 Guineas
  • Colts Trials Stakes

Is it legal to bet at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club?

For the larger part, gambling is prohibited in India. The only exception applies to games of skill. Fortunately, horse racing is categorized as a game of skill. This is because both the horse and the jockey undergo vigorous training in anticipation of a race.

Race clubs have had several run-ins with the Indian authorities regarding horse race betting. But since the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the legality of horse race betting, punters have enjoyed tremendous freedom in their betting endeavours.

The Royal Calcutta Turf Club has numerous betting counters within its premises where spectators can bet on their favourite horses and cheer them on from the stands.

The only downside is that Calcutta’s betting laws aren’t as friendly as in other states. This sometimes undermines horse race betting. For this reason, the Royal Calcutta Turf Club hasn’t been keen on opening off-site betting kiosks. Furthermore, the club hasn’t invested in recent computer technology to provide a flawless betting experience. But this doesn’t by any case mean that you can’t enjoy betting at the RCTC. If that is your region, then RCTC is your best choice.

Betting on the Royal Calcutta Turf Club Online

As an avid punter, you may have wondered whether it’s possible to bet on races from RCTC online. Well, the law surrounding this form of betting in India is somewhat vague. This explains why Turf Clubs haven’t been motivated to develop and venture into online gambling.

Nonetheless, you can still bet on horse racing events from this Turf Club without provoking the authorities. What you need to do is to choose a reputable online betting platform. Some of the best horse race betting sites in India are the likes of Bet365, Betway and Royal Panda.  You can make INR deposits in these sites, and in case you win, you’ll be paid in the same currency.

The BII Key Takeaway

The Royal Calcutta Turf Club is arguably one of the finest horse racing clubs in India. It is endowed with exceptional facilities that make the races fun to watch. Punters can also bet on any of the races offline or online.

Related Horse Race Clubs

Related Reading