The Bangalore Turf Club has been slipping badly on the track in the last few years. The club did not have a good leader who could steer the ship during troubled times. Even the club`s administrative staff had been systematically made weak in such a way that there are no capable hands left. Of late, the positions at the top are being filled up but one is not sure how good these people can turn out in the highly politicized environment of BTC. Though we are into the third week of November, there is no sign of racing starting when traditionally winter races started in the first week of November.
The club has appointed an American with work experience in Korea as the Chief of Racing to take care of handicapping, stiping and the track. He may take a while to get the hang of things provided he manages to survive handling the nine elected committee members and three times that number of sub-committee members. Not to forget the members who keep meddling. We have had experiments with foreign stipes in the past but the attempt has not been successful as the work environment is totally different in BTC.
It is not a surprise that club affairs have been getting progressively worse. The members of the Managing Committee who are grown-up adults cannot choose a leader among themselves. Instead, the aspiring committee members run to the government to get blessings from the Chief Minister to become the Chairman. Why can`t these worthies elect their own chairman when the power is bestowed on them? Are they so incapable of exercising their power that they are to be told who should be the Chairman? The BTC Managing Committee members are like pigeons who want a government cat to lead. The practice in all the turf clubs in the country is for the managing committee to elect its chairman without outside interference.
Shivakumar Khenny is the new chairman of the club. He lacks confidence and is heavily dependent on his advisors for every decision that he may be called upon to take. He may be a good man but in the absence of in-depth knowledge of the sport, his dependency on a few people is fraught with risks. Under his stewardship, the committee is bound to procrastinate, and drift, with powerful members within the committee pulling the club in different directions.
Importantly, the BTC members have elected one Aravind Raghavan as a Steward of the Club. When he was not a member of the club, he was heading the racehorse owners` association. Every season was marked by a strike. Aravind is a known disruptor but despite that, he has been elected as a Steward. He tried desperately to become the Chairman but was frustrated in the end. A frustrated person from the opposite group is surely not good news for a weak chairman like Khenny.
The club has not been forthcoming about the reasons for the delay at the start of the winter season. One has to believe that rains have rendered the track unfit for racing. But it is a damning statement considering that rains have kept away from Bangalore this month and there have only been intermittent rains. Because of the peculiarities of the track, water gets stagnated in the area between 700 metres to 500 metres. But the problem remains unaddressed.
To quote an expert opinion: ``When lawns are inundated by excess rainy weather, sometimes dumping inches of rain on saturated turf, the tiny air pockets in soils can become flooded, forcing out the carbon dioxide necessary for photosynthesis to take place. When this happens, growth stops, grass turns yellow and, in severe or extended cases, dies off. The solution for this is to install drains to keep water moving out of these low areas.``
The club reports say that it has spent crores of rupees on the maintenance of the track in the last few years. One is not sure whether the club has consulted experts on turf management on how to tackle the problem. One has to wait and see whether the turf club`s attempt to fill up the bald patches where the water stagnated with fresh saplings of grass will give positive results. The track may look green but the grass cover will be shallow and under the impact of the hoofs, it may come off. Growing grass and turf management of a race track is a different skill altogether. Also, the quality of the soil is critical. Sadguru has been campaigning all over the World to save soil because the soil is dying. The area where the grass has not grown appears degraded. There could be a need to increase the organic content.
We may see a strike by the stable staff in support of their demands for an increase in salary if this matter is not resolved as soon as possible. Though Aravind Raghavan has officially resigned from his position at the Stable Welfare Society, he still calls the shot as his nominees are at the helm there being no democratic process of election to the society. One has to see whether he will go with the workers and lapses into his old habit of causing a strike or work as the director of the club to ensure the smooth running of racing is a matter of speculation.