The Supreme Court refused to grant Karnatakas buffalo race, Kambala, an interim stay.
A bench comprising A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, fixed March 12 for a final hearing on the plea by animal rights body PETA in the matter.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the state ordinance allowing Kambala has lapsed and the buffalo race has no legal sanction at present.
To pave the way for the festival, the state cabinet had on January 28 last year decided to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, (Central Act 59 of 1960), enacted to prevent infliction of unnecessary cruelty and suffering on animals.
Bullock cart races are held in parts of north Karnataka and in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada.
The Kambala race, held between November and March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough and anchored by one person.
They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.
It is believed to be held to propitiate the gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.
PETA has opposed the upcoming Kambala festival on grounds of cruelty to animals. Calling for banning the sport, it said the agitators have taken a leaf out of the pro-jallikattu protesters book.