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Set your equestrian equations right ahead of the Annual South Indian Derby

People once thronged the stands of the Madras Race Club on Pongal to watch horses run neck-and-neck in competition. The gates were open to the public to watch stallions and mares from the best stud farms in the country run on the legendary Guindy racing turf. Following a brief period of decline thanks to racing monopolies, the club is inching back to its days of glory with empty stands making room for excitement surrounding the Annual South Indian Derby tomorrow.

Staking claim
The oldest club in the country, MRC had its fair share of trouble, having overcome bankruptcy, a racing ban and corruption over its 240 years of existence. “Chennai has the best racing track in the country,” claims Dr M A Mirza, Racing Consultant and Senior Stipendiary Steward at MRC. With the stakes for the derby looking to go over `80 lakh, top owners in the country’s racing circuit, from the Chettinad Charitable Trust to the Poonawalla Racing and Breeders Ltd will lock horns for the fat prize money. “Registrations for the derby closed last December. Owners usually register for the races a year in advance,” adds Mirza. Taking place on the seventeenth day of the Madras racing season, the day will see nine races including the main derby and the Dr MAM Ramaswamy Gold Cup, in memory of the late racing stalwart and former Chairman of the Club. The weekend will also see ace jockeys David Allan, Trevor Patel and TS Jodha among others riding on the turf.

New order
Touted to be one of the best clubs in terms of infrastructure, MRC has seen a revival of sorts having hosted the Indian Turf Invitation Cup after 11 years, last year. The change in management has done well with the likes of R Ramakrishnan, Chairman and Dr S M Karthikeyan, Secretary of the club, spearheading radical changes in the racing rules and administration. “It will take Chennai a good two to three years to actually see improvement, but we’re getting there and that’s the good news,” says Karthikeyan.

STYLE CHECK
Smart casuals are the flavour of the season, says Hichem Osman of Silkworm Boutique. He recommends an earthy colour palette for the peak of the racing
calendar. For women, saris and dresses can work well for the paddocks as long as flashy colours are avoided. As for the gentlemen, Osman stresses on semi or formal footwear-picking classic leather as his go-to option.Lightweight day jackets that aren’t too stiff work well for the classic race. Head to Studio BAS for special derby styling pointers. Clothes and accessories from `10,000  onwards. Details: 28330991

The BIG BID

After 23 years, the annual auctions return to the paddocks of the Madras Race Club. With horses of varying pedigrees and sizes expected to go down the hammer, anyone with a penchant for thoroughbreds and other pedigrees can try their luck. 4 pm onwards on January 14 and 15. At the Paddock, Madras Race Club.
Details: 22351171

— Lavanya Lakshminarayanan

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