The Bangalore Turf Club Steward Mahendra Kuga Shankar could well face disqualification for suppressing the fact that he had a horse in breeding till the year 2015. The Bangalore Turf Club Articles of the Association prohibits anyone from contesting for Stewardship if he has an interest in a horse.
If a racehorse owning member of the club wants to become the Steward of BTC, there should be a gap of three years from the time he stopped owning a horse. Kuga Shankar had a horse which was in breeding. As per the data obtained from the Stud Book Authority of India, he had a mare named Honey Buzzard in the stud farm till January 2015. Kuga Shankar stood for the post of Steward in the year 2017 when under the rules, he was not eligible. As a result, he is likely to face disqualification.
According to the Stud Book Authority of India Register, the mare Honey Buzzard who is by Rebuttal out of Dance Royal was registered as a broodmare with the Stud Book Authority of India on 14-03-2013 and was owned by Kuga Shankar in partnership with Chaduranga Kantharaj Urs. The mare was put out of the stud in January 2015. Kuga Shankar could have contested only after 2018 as a Steward but he contested the election in 2017 when he had not cleared the three-year sanitation period.
The Government of Karnataka forced the Bangalore Turf Club to amend the Articles of the Association in 1985 after the allegation of rigging of races by the horse owning Stewards and their associates who were members of the club and owned horses became a scandal. The infamous case involving Govardhan and Certain Smile is too well known to merit repetition. Certain Smile had won the race start to finish with Govardhan finishing second but following a frivolous objection put by the jockey ostensibly put on the insistence of the connections, the Stewards upheld the objection despite the professional Stipendiary Stewards overwhelmingly voting against upholding of the objection. The then Chairman of the Club put his casting vote to uphold the objection after it was tied at 2-2. There was a police enquiry into the incident and the report submitted by them to the government was damning. The police said that the race result was manipulated to suit the betting interests of the Stewards and that of the owners of the horse who were also influential members of the club. The present Steward Satish Chandra was also an owner of Govardhan.
Following the Police report, the government mandated that no horse owning member should become a Steward. The Articles of the Association had to be amended to bring in this rule, but the club resisted for a while. Racing came to a standstill in Bangalore, with the license to conduct even off-course betting operations having been denied. After the face-off for 55 days, the turf club members relented because many of the racehorse-owning members who had considerable clout ensured that the amendment went through because of their commitment to racing. The government also got the club to put in one more condition that no amendment to the Articles of Association could take place without prior government approval.
The definition of an owner as per the BTC`s Articles of the Association is defined in Article 32. Article 32 (b) says: No Racehorse Owner shall be a Steward in the Managing Committee. Article 32 (c) for the purpose of this Article, a racehorse owner means a person who: i) Owns a racehorse either in his own name or of a relative as enumerated in the Schedule 1 ``A`` to the Indian Company`s Act. or as a lessee; or ii) owned a horse either in his own name or of a relative as enumerated in Schedule 1(A) to the Indian Companies Act or as a lessee at any time during the period of three years prior to the date of filing of nomination.
The Rules of Racing defines the owner as: ``Owner means the legal and not the equitable owner of a horse and approved by the Stewards of the Club and permitted by them to own horses and race them under the Rules of Racing and includes part owner/s. Where the horse is leased, the word owner means the lessee or a part-lessee but not lessor and the lessor of a horse shall be deemed to be having no racing interest in the horse and the interest of the Lessor in such horse shall be subject to terms and conditions of the Lease Agreement between the Lessor and the Lessee. In the case of a horse owned by a Limited Company or a Syndicate, the word ``owner`` means the Company or the Syndicate, as the case may be. Interest means an interest in a horse in any form of ownership, including co-ownership, joint-ownership, partnership, syndicate membership etc and includes interest as a breeder.
Several of the club members are openly talking that Kuga Shankar still has interests in horses and has kept them in the name of the trainer. Dunamis and Air Command are the horses in which he is reported to have a stake. One thing that is clear is that Kuga Shankar spends a lot of time in the stable where these horses are located.
With those governing the sport are themselves guilty of breaching the rules, no wonder the sport is slipping inexorably. It remains to be seen how the mandarins and the members of the club react now that irrefutable evidence is available in the official records of the Keepers of the Stud Book of India which is the organ of the Turf Authorities of India. The Stud Book Authority of India (SBAI) is the nodal agency for all matters concerning registration of breeding establishments, thoroughbred stallions, thoroughbred mares and newly born thoroughbred foals in India. It is responsible to maintain on its record, identification details of thoroughbred horses in India.