Racing Days at Barrackpore

During the early 1920's RCTC was looking for a suitable land to set up its own race course, should anything go wrong over the Maidan lease. Tollygunge seemed an ideal site. But for some inexplicable reason, the land already owned there for the steeple chase was not retained as a nucleus. The word got round that the club was looking for land and prices went sky rocketing.

So, when in 1922 the oportunity came to buy a large plot of land at Barrackpore, which included the existing race course there, at a very reasonable price, it was decided to drop Tollygunge and to develop Barrackpore.

The position in 1921 was that a Race Course was in existence there, having been revived as a Gymkhana Meeting by General Sir Ormonde Winter in 1913. The Barrackpore Race Club had been formed and had for some years held fixtures under RCTC Rules which seem to have been reasonably successful, though access for the public from Calcutta was difficult.

The purchase meant that the RCTC would take over the running of the fixtures there in the future as also the Stands, buildings, etc., from the Barrackpore Race Club at a mutually agreeable price. The Stewards' intention was to build an entirely new modern Race Course, Stands and Stables and only to use the existing old Course during the three or four years that the new Course would take to plan and build. The land deal went through in 1922 and planning for the new Course began almost immediately. Col. Wilkinson, the Inspector of Courses in England at that time, came out and advised and Mr. Hugh Gorton of the East Bengal Railway was given a three-year contract with the Club to design and build the new Course. The same Hugh Gorton was later to become Inspector of Courses in England and his son, major Val Gorton, was to occupy the same post later. The intention was to build a modern Course with a straight 6 furlongs as well as the round Course. A large Grand Stand was to be built, a portion of which would be for Members. If the Course became popular it was intended to build a Members' Stand alongside the Grand Stand and the whole of the Grand Stand would revert to the public. A Smaller stand in the 2nd Enclosure was also to be built. The stables too were planned so that they would be capable of expansion. Most important of all, an agreement was reached with the Railway for the building of a special siding at the back of the Stand which would enable special trains from Sealdah to be run direct to the Course and so overcome what had been the chief snag to the old Course. The siding would also have special loading ramps for the loading and unloading of horses. It was aimed to have the whole programme completed in time for an opening in 1927.

The laying out of the new Course and the building all went very smoothly though it was finally decided to postpone the opening for a few months to allow the ground more time to settle. The inaugural Meeting was finally held on January 27th, 1928 and the special Cup for the occasion was won by Col. W. M. Craddock's WOLD VIXEN. The Course was an infinitely better one than Calcutta but was never popular with the Calcutta public who did not understand the straight 6 furlongs and the wide expanse of the Course after the Calcutta soup plate course. There was usually 3 days racing in the Autumn and a couple of days or so in February. Sadly it never caught on and was always a white elephant financially. Racing took place there from 1928-1941. In 1942-1946 it was requisitioned for War Purposes. During 1946-47, the course was got back into shape and racing restarted in November, 1947, and was also held in 1948. In 1947-48, when Hastings Stables became overcrowded, it was used as a training centre. It was not used after 1948 and the land was eventually sold back to Government in 1954 as part of the deal for the renewal of the Maidan Lease. So ended the rather sad story of one of the club's less successful ventures. Only 71 days of racing were held there in the 30 years the Club owned the property.