A Day at the Races
Week before I received an invitation from an expat group I belong to, Everything Expats. Everything Expats provides relocation services for expatriates and as part of that they also maintain a mailing list, host a forum where expats can trade info, and from time to time host get-togethers where foreigners can meet both other foreigners and local folks as well. The invite was for the running of the Theur Hamlet Cup at Pune Racecourse on Sunday 4 August. Seemed intriguing, so off we went.
The day was overcast – the monsoon is not quite done – and we had light mists of rain all through the afternoon. Here’s a view of part of the Member’s Area and the public grandstand beyond:
Like many things here, the racecourse has an old-timey feel – one could easily picture Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Harry the Horse, or any other of Damon Runyon’s characters placing a bet at the tote window. Horse racing has been happening in Pune since at least 1815. In 1870 a Major General Burnett donated the current race course lands to the West India Turf Club; the race course is in the middle of the Pune Cantonment, a military district established by the British in 1817 and today maintained by the Indian Army.
Nowadays the race course is part of both the Pune social and commercial scene. The “Theur Hamlet Cup” was sponsored by a local real-estate developer, Theur, who was promoting a new development, “The Hamlet”. Far from Elsinore in both distance and conception, The Hamlet features horseback riding and also high-end bungalows with solar panels and other eco-minded features. But the real-estate angle hardly impinged on us, mostly we wandered about, mingled and generally had a nice afternoon:
This is a turf club with real turf. After each race a crew would slowly pace the grass of the track, fixing up the divots made by the race horses:
We all noticed that it was the women who did all the fixing; the men just trudged after dragging their rakes and talking.
What was the financial upshot of all this? Well, despite losing Rs. 100 on the first race I bet – on a long-shot named Salsa – we had a winner and a placer on the two next races, greys picked by Morgan and Kim named Four-Star General and Hachiko respectively. In the actual Theur Cup race, Mars was the favorite and Fortune Favors the #2. Hoping boldness would be rewarded, I put another Rs. 100 on Fortune Favors to win, but it was not to be. If not for that last bet I would have been up a big, big Rs. 30 (about $0.50).
I should have used a more scientific method, like these guys: