Sunday, December 7, 2014

Form book

I know little about betting. And I know far less about horse racing. Even so, the name "Original Vel Sporting News" is something I would recognize as being the bible for horse racing enthusiasts in Chennai (and apparently in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ooty, and several other places as well). As a child, It was fascinating to peek into this publication for the sheer exoticness of the names of the horses. 

One of the quirks of this publication, which I couldn't figure out in those days, was the fact that none of the races seemed to be happening in Madras. In the days before the internet and mobile phones - in the days when long distance calls meant 'trunk' calls that had to be booked a few hours in advance - they still managed to get bets out on races in Bombay and Hyderabad and other places. And the books detailed the odds on those races. But never for Madras. It could have been because of the strong public sentiment against horse racing - remember the statues on Mount Road

The Original Vel claims to have been established in 1929. A case in the Madras High Court, in 1953, dates its founding to 1936. A record of those court proceedings gives us an idea of what 'Sporting News' could be found in those pages: "The Cricket Test at Delhi" "The Duncan Cup Cricket at Madras" "Five Lucky Charms", "Peter the world-beating athelete" and "Stopping Zatopek"  were some of the articles. But also included were: "The Queen and the Riddle of Minister's summons to Sunday talks at Castle", "Herbert Morrison's attack" and "Hitler's valet held by Reds". Dashed sporting, old chap, but what is it doing in Original Vel? Had such articles continued to find a place in the publication, it would have been fascinating to browse through. But these days, they staple the booklet to discourage flipping through it. And I am not going to pony up 15 bucks to read horse names!

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