David Allan expresses fears for racing in India

David Allan, the most successful foreign jockey in India's racing history, fears his days riding in the country may be over as the sport struggles to find a way out of the Covid-19 shutdown.

While racing has resumed in many countries, the nine racecourses in India have not been able to reopen even behind closed doors, leaving the already fragile industry in further peril. 

Racing in India was plunged into crisis before the pandemic due to the imposition of a new Goods and Services Tax by the government.

Betting on racing was one of the sectors forced to pay 28 per cent, representing a massive hike for organisations like the Mysore Race Club and Bangalore Turf Club. 

"It's not looking good and it doesn't look like I'll be going back," said Allan.

"I've been keeping on top of it and some of the tracks are trying to get going again, but I can't see where the funding is going to come from.

"There are no betting shops, like we have here, and they're trying to get racing online, but the government doesn't seem particularly keen and hasn't passed anything through."

Allan, who returned from his 11th winter spell in India earlier this year, surpassed former champion apprentice Sandy Barclay as the most successful foreign rider in the country two years ago.

He has landed the Indian Derby – a race also won by the likes of Richard Hughes, Mick Kinane and Walter Swinburn – three times including in successive years in 2016 and 2017.

Plans for a return of racing later this month have been drafted, but the financial state of a sport reliant on vibrant on-course betting remains uncertain.

Tegbir Brar, a leading owner-breeder in Punjab, said: "We weren't in good shape before the coronavirus and everything we've done wrong for the past 30-40 years has come to a head. 

"I'm sure racing will start again, we're just waiting for the government to give it the go-ahead. When it does I just hope we can get permission to go online as that would be a big thing for the industry."

On the far-reaching implications of the Indian racing crisis, Brar added: "The sales in Britain and the US are popular with breeders in India, but given the current climate I don't see people coming out and spending money this year."