The Queen’s Day at RCTC

 

The RCTC race course has been graced by the visit of a galaxy of dignitaries. In the old days, the Viceroys and the Governor Generals, with the exception of Lord Wellesley perhaps, were active patrons of racing in Calcutta. Later on, King George V paid a couple of visits to the Calcutta race course, as did heads of state from a host of countries.

 

But perhaps the greatest `event' in the history of RCTC was the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in February, 1961. Here, we could do no better than reproduce the news that appeared in the Statesman on February 19, 1961.

On a brilliant sunlit afternoon all Calcutta turned out to pay homage to England's sporting Queen. Before the biggest, most resplendent, gathering ever seen on the racecourse, the 25 to 1 outsider, Pa Bear, owned by Mrs. A. H. Bilimoria, won the Queen's coveted trophy on Saturday.

The Queen was pleased with the day's racing and impressed with the appointments and layout of the Calcutta racecourse, and told the Maharaja of Burdwan, the Club's Senior Steward, who received her on behalf of the club, that she thought the standard of racing in Calcutta extremely high.

Arriving in an open car with Princes Philip on schedule at 2.40 p.m., the Queen was given a spontaneous welcome by the thousands in the stands. They clapped and waved and a few crackers were let off in the Second Enclosure as the motorcade drove up the track.

Though shorn of the splendour and pageantry of the State arrivals of those other days with which this Calcutta classic has been associated, it was no less heartwarming and impressive.

No sooner had she taken her seat in the Royal box than 200 white pigeons went fluttering into the azure sky. The Queen was delighted. Her face lit up as they flew in rare formation over the alabaster white of the Victoria Memorial.

During the afternoon the Queen visited the paddock on two occasions. She watched the runners for the big race parade with the eye of an expert. With the Maharaja Scindia of Gwalior she exchanged a joke about Monkshood, which she once owned, but added "The old man looks well".

But perhaps the most pleasing scene was the presentation of the cup and what came after. The Queen stood for a full 10 minutes chatting with Mrs. Bilimoria, the owner of Pa Bear, her husband, trainer Galstaun and jockey Swinburn as a figure of the English turf and said "You rode a beautiful race".

When Mr. Bilimoria had been introduced she congratulated him on the excellence of the catering arrangements by his hotel at Durgapur during her stay there.

 

She asked Galstaun if he had trained a winner of her race before and when told that in 1956 he sent out Good Business II to win, she said "Congratulations; well done".

 

It was all so natural, so human. It could have been Kempton Park, Goodwood or, in its slightly more formal moments, Ascot. There were the familiar names on the racecard - Piggott, Rickaby, E. Cracknell, W. Snaith and others. But it was Calcutta and yet the Queen looked entirely at ease.

According to the Maharaja of Burdwan, the Queen praised the racing she saw, adds our staff reporter. she put many interesting questions, ranging from the history of the RCTC to the reason why we still hold monsoon racing when it does not appeal to all owners.

 

The Queen wore a pink, blue and green floral dress covered by a loose duster coat of the same motif. She wore a pearl necklace with dot earrings to match, while the Duke was in a beige loungesuit. Both seemed to enjoy the day's proceedings.