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Oscar vs Bahubali: India’s oldest horse fair rides high

As warming rays of the winter sun touch the banks of river Tapi, Raj Satpute’s eyes remain transfixed on the silhouette of a stallion warming up at brisk speed in an enclosed field. The seal brown charger with white hooves and a lean, athletic build races around a set circumference on the field until one of Satpute’s assistants pulls it to a halt.

Satpute from Ahmednagar is camping with six of his horses at the Chetak Festival, the oldest and largest equestrian fair in the country at Sarangkheda, eight hours from Mumbai in the Nandurbar district of northern Maharashtra. Here, hundreds of horses will change hands over the course of the month with some of the biggest horse dealers hoping to pick up six to ten horses each, all in the hope of unveiling the next show jumping star, a suave wedding ghodi, a thoroughbred racehorse or simply for good luck.