By Shannon Nicholas
The Royal Turf Club (RTC) is gearing up to put up an elegant show as the RTC Spring and Summer Race Cup will be held at the picturesque Nuwara Eliya Race Course on Sunday (31).
This is expected to be a highly anticipated race day for the RTC in Nuwara Eliya this season, as a season warmer ahead of the April holidays.
The hibernation of the RTC events for the past 10 months have given them ample time and space to make necessary arrangements with the hopes of dishing out three perfect race days from March 31, with the RTC Spring and Summer Race Cup.
This race day will not only provide the RTC, but also the fleet of over 50 thoroughbred horses and its owners the opportunity to warm-up for the next two big events scheduled during the month of April.
The RTC Spring and Summer Race Cup will include five events, where all top horses, ridden by top foreign and local jockeys will experience the fully maintained 1,800 metre race track of the Nuwara Eliya Racecourse.
The cynosure of all eyes during the season will be obviously on Alcazaba, the unbeaten thoroughbred owned by Deepthika Jayakody. Alcazaba, the only mare among Class-1 thoroughbreds, lost her debut race in Sri Lanka three seasons ago, but that goes down in history as her only defeat on the Nuwara Eliya track.
She earned the nickname of ‘the Cover Girl of Horseracing’ and this makes her a favourite among horserace lovers.
Trailing closely behind Alcazaba is Meheran, owned by Hasanga Jayaratne. Meheran has recorded five wins in India and won the RTC Magic Million Cup in 2017.
The record of the two horses will provide an exciting finish in the main race on Sunday.
Another horse to watch out will be Parushram, owned by David Anthony, while Kingston Town, Another Ace and Baashagar are expected to provide the unexpected.
"We are thrilled to finally bring the Racecourse in Nuwara Eliya alive with events, where all top jockeys are expected to run on thoroughbred horses, who are easily international contenders. It's also satisfying to have our existing partners with us through our efforts to promote horseracing in Sri Lanka and help the sport reach international standards. We are extremely glad to see new partners joining in as sponsors for races, which will hopefully help the RTC to conduct a smooth and eventful three race days taking place within four weeks from March 31," Nishitha Rupasinghe, Treasurer, RTC, said.
RTC has decided to dedicate its Thoroughbred Class-II Race to the late Ranjit Dahanayake, who was one of its active Committee Members as well as a horseracing devotee.
The decision was taken unanimously to name the second-best event of the RTC Spring and Summer Race Cup, as the Ranjit Dahanayake Memorial Cup, where a total of 11 horses are expected to battle it out to clinch the prestigious silverware in the third race of the day.
Dahanayake, who had a keen interest in horses and horseracing, became an avid horse rider during his teenage years. He went on to become a business magnate and was a top diplomat and a keen negotiator, which helped him develop a successful business entity during the early 1980s.
Despite his busy schedule, Dahanayake participated in many gentlemen rider's events and races in Sri Lanka.
He later became the President of the Equestrian Association of Sri Lanka, during his peak and was a Life Member of the Sri Lanka Turf Club.
"Dahanayake was invited to be a part of the RTC as a Committee Member, and he was really active up to the time of his demise. He played an active role as a Committee Member in RTC activities and was a great influence to all colleagues," said Rupasinge.
Following the race day on Sunday which acts as a forerunner to the season, RTC will conduct its two remaining mega events during the April Holidays; the RTC Governor's Cup and the RTC Magic Million Cup.
On April 15, a day after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the RTC will hold the ever popular 148th Governor's Cup and Queen's Cup on the same day, followed by the RTC Magic Million on April 21.
In 2018 the RTC made plans to hold four race days during the April Holiday Season, but were unable to hold one of them despite conducting three successfully. The fourth event had to be called off due to adverse weather.
The RTC made efforts to hold races later in 2018 but could not accomplish them due to unsupportive weather conditions.
This event had the 60 odd thoroughbred horses and its 11 stable owners go through a tough period with the inability to hold events and to maintain their horses in perfect condition.
The 10 inactive months were made use by the RTC to draw new plans for the upcoming season.
The RTC is already negotiating with a few of its international counterparts to field horses and jockeys for the upcoming three racedays.
According to Rupasinghe, talks are still on and the possibility of Sri Lankan horserace lovers witnessing star class horses and jockeys competing in the coming weeks is higher.
The RTC events are sponsored by Blackpool Hotel Nuwara Eliya, Colombo Hilton, Alpine Hotel, Mosh, Real Radio and Kiss FM for the upcoming season.