• Ruffina wins The Sprinters Cup (Gr.1)
  • Azzurro wins The Dr M A M Ramaswamy Stayers Cup (Gr.1)
  • Whomakestherules wins The Maj P K Mehra Memorial Super Mile Cup (Gr.1)
  • Kangra wins The Indian Turf Invitation Cup (Gr.1) in record timing
www.indiarace.com: Taking Someone's Livelihood away is the Toughest Call

"Taking Someone's Livelihood away is the Toughest Call"

Fin Powrie, an Aussie to the boot, is all set to make his mark as Racing Advisor to the Bangalore Turf Club. He has already taken charge, and is as anxious as any other racing enthusiast to see the season get underway. Powrie has been at the helm of various international racetracks, and considers his five-year stint with the Dubai Race Club as his most cherished span in racing. The 52-year old Australian spoke at length with our correspondent, North-End, at his office. He talked about how past experience shaped him and how he hopes to shape the future of racing at Bangalore. Excerpts:

Indiarace: What is your first feeling about India?
FP: India is a great country. I am very much aware of its various cultures. In fact, I have already started learning Hindi to familiarize myself with the language. I have followed Indian racing quite keenly and I see the zeal of those connected with the racing industry. I must say they are passionate about their horses. I have seen Mystical, Zurbaran, Holding Court and Classical Act doing well overseas. I strongly feel Indian racing can scale much greater heights.  

IR: Where was your last posting?
FP: New Zealand. I held the position of the General Manager - Racing and Integrity. I also headed a new department, which controlled all the matters related to racing particularly stiping and looking into integral aspects like 'excluding' bad elements and shady characters. Due importance was also given to analysis of betting trends. You may say that my administration controlled the entire racing department. I pay great attention to safety and watchfulness. In my tenure at the New Zealand Race Club, I was very particular about the safety of the professionals and the horses. I encouraged the forum of safety equipment, which ensured that the gear and equipment used were of acceptable standards. Registration of all stable staff was made mandatory. This measured up to the safety standards necessary for race horses and, to an extent, the jockeys as well.

IR: How do you look back on your career so far?
FP: It has been enjoyable and eventful. I have had the privilege of living in different parts of the world. It has been quite an experience, and rewarding as well. The day I landed in Bangalore, I learnt that the Western Australia Turf Club conferred the Honourable Life Membership upon me. I am delighted and I acknowledge this gesture. I served the Club for more than a dozen years as the Chairman of Stipendiary Stewards.  

IR: Tell us a little about your recent assignments.
FP: I thoroughly enjoyed being associated with the Racing Clubs of the Emirates. I held the positions of Chief Stipe and the Director of Racing. I cherish my stint as the Director – Racing at the Dubai Race Club. I was at the helm at Dubai for over five years. In 2003, me and my team set up the Dubai International Racing Carnival at the behest of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and the Dubai World Cup was the crowning glory. It is the world's richest race and the stakes are going higher every successive year. That certainly put Dubai Racing on the world map. Dubai International Racing Carnival is now the destination of some of the best horses in the business from across the globe. It is indeed the congregation of highest quality today. I was fortunate to be part of the Organising Committee of the 31st Asian Racing Conference and indeed chaired the first International Stewards' Conference in Dubai last January which attracted Stipes from 25 countries – it was the initial step in true globalisation of racing control.

IR: How did your BTC appointment come about?
FP: I was keenly following Indian racing and kept tabs through websites such as indiarace.com regularly even from Dubai and New Zealand. I staunchly believe Indian racing has a lot of potential and I want to play a crucial role in its development and promotion. The moment I was called to make my presentation and for the interview, I knew this was where I wanted to be. I think I have the experience and the expertise which I intend to apply and do my bit for the growth of the sport. Fortunately, my interview went off well and I was handed the responsibilities. Having said that, I will need the co-operation of all those connected with Indian racing and as a team we can work towards higher achievements.

IR: What will be your priorities as Racing Advisor to the BTC?
FP: I would advise the Club on all aspects related to racing and administration, which I believe are my areas of expertise. I would then primarily look at identifying and training young Stipendiary Stewards and all racing officials with a view to form a well-connected and professional unit at Bangalore and Mysore, and impress upon them the importance of solid homework, preparation for the races, working on the speed mapping of participating horses. And, of course, questioning the professionals when required. Keeping track of multiple runners from the same yard and being well-versed with the pre-race instructions to post-race analysis will also be high on my agenda. Promotion of the sport is also high on my list. Advertising and promoting a well-conducted sport will attract more sponsors and investors through betting and this, in turn, will ensure growth at a healthy rate.

IR: What are the toughest moments you have had to face?
FP: Well, there are lots of them. However, the hardest part is in pronouncing serious deterrent penalties to offenders. Taking away someone's livelihood is always tough. I ensure that I take into consideration all facts and evidence and only when I am completely satisfied in my own mind that the case is correct and the offender is guilty, that I recommend the sternest punishments. However, malpractice is simply intolerable. It erodes the confidence of those participating who should expect a level-playing field

IR: Where do you think there is room for improvement in Indian racing?
FP: Well, we can all improve all the time. What I do today some will do it better tomorrow. Safety of the professionals and the horses is an aspect of high priority. The present system is adequate but can be improved upon. We must strive to improve the quality of racing, and apply the principles of credibility, accountability and transparency. Monitor performance of horses though intelligently. I have ideas and strategies to implement. Attracting a larger attendance at the race course is one more angle. I am also looking at the prospect of inviting the corporate sector. It would be a welcome possibility to further involve the corporate sector of Bangalore business houses to attend racing. Racing should be projected in a much larger manner. Younger generation needs to understand the sport as an entertainment. All this is where I think there is room for improvement.

IR: How does Indian racing compare with International centres?
FP: Indian racing is now gaining ground. Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore are doing particularly well around around this circuit. I am hopeful we will be getting better to match them soon. The potential is certainly evident. The breeding is right up there. The professionals are getting better, the enthusiasm and passion accorded to racing in India is equal to all these centres. In fact, India is the world Leader in terms of the welfare of the race horses when it comes to the use of the whip. India leads the world in terms of control on the use of whip. Only Sweden, Germany have similar guidelines regarding the whip use. I think Indian horses are well looked after.  

IR: What about horses from overseas countries being allowed to participate in Indian racing?
FP: Any form of opening of borders for competition is good for any sport. The IPL cricket tournament is a great example. Jockeys, trainers, horses/owners will be on their toes with such competition. However, the logistics and procedures will take some doing for all that to happen in a hurry. Then again, the quarantine facilities, quality of horses and stake money will have to match international standards. I had made a representation to the Australian Government when in Dubai. The quarantine regulations there too were stringent. However, with appropriate representation, we managed to impress upon the authorities and horses which had raced in the UAE were afforded an easier passage back to race in Australia. With proper management, we could see a development which would enhance Indian racing.  

IR: Are you familiar with the Indian racing fraternity?
FP: If you mean the chairmen and committee members of various turf authorities in India, yes. I have met most of them at Dubai and during the Asian Racing Conference. I have met most of the senior officials and representatives of Indian racing at various places around the world.  

IR: What would be your advice to young professionals in the game?
FP: First and foremost, I would caution them that racing is a sport of tremendous highs and lows. Failure, especially to young aspirants, can be devastating. New trainers, apprentice jockeys need to prepare themselves for any eventualities. I would tell them not to lose faith in their abilities and always ‘Do Your Best’! (Pura kohshes karo)

IR: How is your family coping with your absence?
FP: Well, they are getting used to it now. My wife and two sons live in Perth. They are avid racing enthusiasts themselves. My sons are very talented riders. I miss them, and the feeling is mutual. This is perhaps the only downside - being away from home.

Date:May 14, 2008