This good news comes from veteran horseman, Acting CEO, Clerk of the Course, Stipendiary Steward and Jockey Trainer of the RTC, Sinclair Marshal. He further stated that the days leading up to the 2nd April race date would see some light showers, creating the expected conditions. The meteorological department forecasts slightly cloudy but bright weather on 2nd April, 16th April, and 29th April race dates ensuring excellent racing conditions throughout the season.
Event Coordinator and Stipendiary Steward RTC, Nikhil Punna, stated that Competition this season is expected to be fiercer than the seasons gone by, due to the ‘Selvaratnam Challenge Trophy’ Class 1 race to be held on 2nd April, in addition to the usual Royal Turf Club, signature race ‘RTC Magic Million’ that is to be held on 16th April , both which offer a Rs 1 Million stake to the winner. An International Jockey Competition which is currently in the organizational stage, is targeted for 29th April. Mr Punna Stated that the demand for tickets for all 3 events, have been huge, but a certain number of tickets have been reserved for those who wish to purchase tickets at the gates on race days to ensure no one is disappointed.
The Selvaratnam Trophy is supported by a family of exemplary Horsemen, Hailing from Nuwara Eliya, Renga Selvaratnam and sons Gopi, Karthik and Druba Selvaratnam. Trained under the tutelage of legendary Sri Lanka Trainer Renga Selvaratnam, Druba has trained Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s horses for the past 27 years and was the Prime Mover behind the creation of the Dubai Race course. He easily sailed past his 1,000-win Mark in 2006 and has never looked back since. The RTC is looking forward to his advice and support in the coming years.
Speaking to Mr. Punna, Senior Trainer Jayantha stated that he has a few good runners this season, including Champion Honorius who shook the race course by winning his first ever race in Sri Lanka. Owned by Fearless Stables belonging to Eresha Weerasinghe, Honorius is targeted to win the Class 5 races with Crimson Quest owned by Mr. and Mrs. Gamini Jayaratne and trained by veteran trainer Madialagan being the main Challenger. Champion Trainer Raju stated that he has a good string of horses especially for the Class 1 Races and stated that Alcazaba and the RTC Governors Cup 2016 winner Roswell owned by Deepthika Jayakody are in peak condition, whereas others are moderate in performance. He stated that their main challenger is Meheran owned by Mr. Gamini Jayaratne who has been in top form recently. Trainer for the Jayaratne Stables, Indian Trainer, Manish Raj Sethi stated that he had not had much opportunity to train Meheran for the Class 1 Race to his satisfaction, but nevertheless he hoped to challenge both Alcazaba and Roswell for the Million races. He is also confident he will pick up some smaller races for his stable. Trainer Madialagan was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
Event coordinator Punna was also excited about the other treats organized for this season which include performances from a number of celebrity singers to the accompaniment of well known bands such Flame and Misty, plus fashion shows that are expected to rock the race course.
As always animal welfare is uppermost with the RTC, who have started a ‘Pony Welfare Fund’ for around 115 Ponies registered with RTC. Dr Balaji Consultant Medical Officer for RTC stated that, RTC has set up a free medical scheme for these ponies owned by low income groups and the unemployed Youth of Nuwara Eliya. The scheme would ensure that the Ponies would be vaccinated periodically and their general health condition monitored from time to time. RTC has introduced a Raffle for this season to finance the scheme where on course spectators would be able to purchase Raffles Tickets for their favorite horses and a draw will be held among the tickets sold for each winning horse plus the horses that are placed second and third. Prizes are Rs 10,000 for the winning horse, Rs 5,000 for the second horse and Rs 2,500 for the third horse.
President RTC Panduka Keerthinanda stated that the RTC has further enforced its commitment to animal welfare by importing a state of the art Equine Ambulance from the United Kingdom at considerable cost. Dr Balaji stated that this is not only the only Equine Ambulance in Sri Lanka but that it has the most modern, up to date features such as two adjustable partitions with breast and breeching bars, front and side ramps for the horses to enter and exit comfortably, two privacy screens complete with vinyl bags for mounting externally, as well as an electric winch mounted internally with winching attachments.
Asked about the jockeys, Mr. Marshall stated that the Class 5 races will be reserved for Sri Lankan jockeys especially jockeys graduating from the RTC Jockey Training School which currently trains about 20 budding jockeys. Mr. Marshall also stated that there is a shortage of jockeys at the moment which is currently covered by jockey’s coming in from various parts of the world. He was optimistic that the RTC Jockey training school will be able to cover the ever increasing demand for Jockeys in the years to come.
RTC Treasurer Rupasinghe stated that the sponsors of RTC have made available a record number of gifts and vouchers for on course spectators exceeding Rs 1 Million, including cash gifts, gift vouchers, luxury hotel stays etc. The Pony Welfare Raffle, Lady with the Best Hat, Best Dressed Gent, and Best Dressed Couple are just some of the competitions that have been set for the Audience.
Secretary Mr. Ranjan Kanagasabai stated that the Royal Turf Club Membership Application forms will be made available at the Club office from 2nd April onwards. However, issuance of membership to this prestigious club will be by an unanimous vote of the standing committee of the Club, and as such cannot be guaranteed.