No Indian Race Horse Can Run Without a Passport

It’s just as bizarre as it sounds.

It’s that time of the year when the humans belonging to the upper echelons of society in big Indian metropolises are gearing up to nurse colonial hangovers in ridiculous hats and oversized dark glasses. Yep, the racing season is on in full swing and the biggest horse racing event, the Indian Derby is right around the corner.

But if you thought that people taking fashion cues from Abbas-Mustan movies (shout-out to Saif and Bipasha from the OG Race film) is what’s weird about the spectacle, you’re judging based only on the opening credits of a truly outlandish absurdist comedy.


As part of the 241-year-old sport, around 4,000 horses are made to run and compete at Indian turf clubs in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Mysore, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai and New Delhi every year. And the prize money amounts to anything between Rs 1 lakh to 3 crores, depending on the horses’ class and the racing cup.

Incredibly, for a horse to be able to partake, it has to have a valid passport endorsed by the Stud Board Authority of India (SBAI). Horses usually get these passports made when they’re around two years old. Irrespective of the date on which they’re born, all horses are considered to be born on January 1, and their age is calculated from that day onwards.


A horse needs more than just physical acumen to partake in the races.

The passport is supposed to accompany the horse it identifies, at all times. It’s usually kept by the horse owner or authorised agents like stud farms or horse trainers. The 30-page long document may look like a nursery report card, but is extremely detailed, and has every little fact about the horse that you could possibly think of or never really thought about, TBH.

The cover page bears the unique number of the microchip that is injected into the horse, along with its name and parentage (horse names are a whole other source of hilarity—this particular horse, for instance, is named Chinese Takeaway, born of parents Crown Jewels and Stanza Starry). All horses, by the way, need to get a stamp on their passport which verifies their parentage. This can be done only through a DNA test that is conducted at the Equine Parentage Validation and Research Laboratory (EPVRL) in Pune.


The parentage stamp is imprinted on two pages of the passport, dedicated to an exhaustive description of the identifying markers of the particular horse. This includes a detailed diagram of the horse, with drawings of its left and right side, hind rear and fore rear view, muzzle and neck ventral (on or relating to the underside of an animal or plant) view.


But it’s not just the physicality of the horse that’s detailed. Every aspect of its life that is relevant to racing is meticulously documented, from the equipment that has been given to the horse, to the times it has been banned from racing, and even any surgical procedures that it might have undergone.

And you thought we had it bad with Aadhaar!

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