The Gr 1 Deccan Derby which was postponed due to a strike by syces who were demanding increase in their salary by about 34 per cent has been re-scheduled to be held on Wednesday, October 16. The Rules of Racing state that if a classic is postponed, it must be held within two weeks of the postponement failing which fresh entries have to be called for. Since the event is being rescheduled within 14 days, the entries for the Derby will remain unchanged.
No fresh entries are allowed and those who scratch their horses due to any reason will lose their final entry money if any. Seven runners had accepted to run the event with Bangalore challengers Well Connected and Impavid who were 1-2 in the Kingfisher Ultra Derby being the top two fancies expected to renew their battle for supremacy. The racegoers have heaved a sign of relief that the wage settlement issue which had threatened to disrupt racing has been swiftly solved and racing will go on as usual with just one day`s disruption.
The workers had threatened to go on strike though they had not actually gone on strike. The trainers` association which was negotiating the deal with the workers had agreed for an increase of Rs 1500, but the workers were insisting on a hike of Rs 2800. The talks failed to break the deadlock on Tuesday and fearing that the Derby day racing would run into trouble due to industrial action, all the races barring the premier event were cancelled.
However, there was no industrial action by the workers who attended to the work on Wednesday as usual. Track work went on without any hitch and it was believed that the Derby day could have been saved with more concerted efforts on the part of the trainers` association who many allege was half-hearted. Rumours were doing the rounds that the trainers, at least some of them were heard saying that they were for precipitating the issue in the hope that due to demand on the part of the workers, the club would be forced to increase the stake money. It may be recalled that following a decision of the Turf Authorities of India last year which mandated that the stake money should be kept at a uniform level all over India, the Hyderabad Race Club cut the stakes by about 30 per cent which included incentives as well. There was disappointment all round at the club`s action because among all turf clubs in the country, Hyderabad Race Club was the best-managed club with its reserves of cash being so good that it could withstand any crisis including the one created by the 28 per cent levy of GST on betting.
The Chairman of HRC R Surender Reddy was firm in dealing with the issue without conceding anything under pressure. Surender Reddy has led the club with distinction and it is well known that while he can be generous, he hates to concede anything under threat of disruptive action. Hyderabad Race Club is perhaps the only race club in the country which has been free of strikes of nature be it by the workers, trainers or horse owners. There have been murmurs of dissent but for fear of strong action by the powers that be, things have never reached the boiling point.
It is said that the Chief Security Officer and the Senior Stipendiary Steward played a stellar role in solving the issue. The syces reportedly accepted their mistake and apologised for their threat of industrial action. The issue has been sorted out with the syces union agreeing to fight for the increase in wages through dialogue without resorting to disruption. At a meeting held on Friday, things were sorted out amicably paving the way for the Derby to be rescheduled.
The postponement of the Derby caused a lot of hardship to those who had made special arrangement to attend the proceedings including the outstation racing enthusiasts besides the professionals and horse owners who had their horses in the Derby fray. It is disappointing that the trainers` association allowed the problem to simmer without making concerted efforts to find a solution. The workers may have said that they were not going to dilute their demand, but such hard stances are always meant to get a better bargain.