The Mahalaxmi Race Course is India’s premier race track. Located in the heart of Mumbai city, the race course is located at a spot near Mahalaxmi neighborhood that used to be a marsh land called Mahalakshmi Flats, which is about 91 hectares wide. It was constructed in 1883 and was designed to resemble the Caulfield race course in Melbourne, Australia. Facing the sea, the Mahalaxmi race track is oval in shape with a 2,400-meter long straight chute. This wide piece of open land was donated by Sir Cusrow N. Wadia. Today, the race course is on perpetual lease from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to the Royal Western India Turf Club or RWITF Club. Other than the nationally anticipated races, Mahalaxmi is also popular for its Grandstand, which was designated as a heritage structure.
RWITF is an exclusive club with more than 1,500 members of affluent Indians and foreigners. It is a highly regarded horserace club and one of the oldest in the country. With its goal of maintaining a good reputation for facilitating fair and clean races, the club has installed automated starting stalls, close-circuit television systems, photo-finish cameras, and split-second electronic timers. These high-tech tools afford peace of mind to betters and players as they sit back and enjoy the races. And since the close-circuit television sets are located at several vantage points, everyone in the arena and bleachers get to see the race up close. There are also live and delayed feeds being broadcasted to other major areas around the country such as Bangalore, Delhi, Mysore, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. Payments and announcement of dividends are also done digitally to ensure correctness.
Mahalaxmi Race Course is most active from mid-November to the end of April. Races take place on Thursdays and Sundays from November to March, and on Saturdays and Sundays in April. The famous Indian Derby or five Indian Classics take place on the first Sunday of February. It is attended by important people from all over India and other parts of the world. Other events that happen here are the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, Poonawalla Multimillion and St. Leger, to name a few. Since 1986, the Vijay Mallya’s UB Group also known as McDowells Co. Ltd. has been sponsoring the McDowell’s Indian Derby.
During off season, local residents come to the race course to jog, stroll or exercise along the inner lane for free. They also use the garden for yoga and Tai-chi exercises, which is similar to how Hong Kong residents enjoy their own Happy Valley Race Course. Two other uses of Mahalaxmi Race Course are for horse-riding lessons and helicopter landing for wealthy club members of the RWITF. Occasionally, the lawns are rented out for wedding, fashion shows, concerts and other local outdoor events. The newest facility within Mahalaxmi is a huge gymnasium with sauna, card room, lounge and bar. It opened in December 2009 and for exclusive use of club members.