|Location||Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India|
|Owned by||Government of Maharashtra|
|Notable races||McDowell's Indian Derby|
The Mahalaxmi Racecourse is a horse racing track in Mahalaxmi neighbourhood, of Mumbai. The track is oval shaped with 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) straight chute, spread over approximately 225 acres (0.91 km2; 0.352 sq mi) of open land in the heart of Mumbai city. It was created out of a marshy land known as Mahalakshmi Flats. Built in 1883 and modelled on the Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, it is spread over land facing the sea. It was originally donated by Sir Cusrow N Wadia and today it is on lease from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to Royal Western India Turf Club which runs the racecourse. The Grandstand, off the course, is a designated heritage structure. The racecourse is the only helipad open for civilian use in South Mumbai.
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The horse racing season starts in mid-November and ends in the last week of April. On the first Sunday in February, the Derby is conducted annually and is attended by many of the city's glitterati. Since the year 1986 till date McDowell's Indian Derby has been sponsored by liquor baron Vijay Mallya's UB Group under the name of flagship company McDowells Co. Ltd. as The McDowell's Indian Derby.
The common Mumbaikar has access to the racecourse in the mornings and evenings during specified timings for exercising, walking or jogging in the inner lane of the main horse race track. The racecourse has also transformed many common Mumbaikars to Marathoners.Yoga sessions akin to Tai-chi are conducted in the garden situated within the race-track during the common permissible timings, akin to "Happy Valley Racecourse" in Hongkong. Lessons for horse-riding are also provided. In the evenings dogs are also allowed to be walked, but one has to check the permissibility. On weekends its common to find Aero-Modelling hobbyists flying planes on the polo ground, performing aerial acrobats with motorized radio controlled planes during non-racing days. The ground is also used as a heli-pad. Lately they have even started with providing newspapers in the morning to the joggers.
99 year lease debate
The land on which the racetrack sits was leased to the Royal Western India Turf Club for 99 years, ending 31 May 2013.
The state government favours leasing out the racecourse for another 30 years.
Reasons often mentioned for keeping the race course
- It currently employs 5000 people.
- The state government collects Rs. 50 crore/year in betting tax from the 43 race days.
- The public is allowed to walk and run on the track 6 months per year, when there are no horse races
- The Turf club maintains the walking and jogging track at no cost to the BMC or state government.
- The lawns are rented out for weddings and other outdoor events.
The Racecourse can be converted to a publicly accessible open space throughout the year. The Haji Ali Mahalaxmi Project aims to connect the 225 acre Racecourse to the Arabian Sea to the West. This can in-turn result in a much larger open space in the heart of Mumbai city.
- "The Mahalaxmi Race Course". Royal Western India Turf Club.
- "Civic body issues eviction notice to Turf Club". Indian Express. May 8, 2010.
- V, Manju (28 July 2011). "Drive to Juhu or main airport only route left". Times of India. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
- Zodge, Vinayak; Deshpande, Alok (13 May 2013). "Sena eyes race course land for Bal Thackeray's memorial". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
- Chandrashekhar, Vaishnavi (13 June 2013). "Central Park Dreams Trigger a Battle in Mumbai". The New York Times.
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