And the people came from near and far and voted against the Church in their thousands. The first Sunday race meet received a most emphatic vote of confidence. Organised religion lost the Battle of November 29.
But, before we get too carried away, we need to remember that the business plan remains the same – flawed. It is a plan that depends on cash and customers being available two days in a row; a stock of horseflesh that does not exist; the support of a Government afraid to publicly oppose the Church; and the support of punters, OTBs and horsemen alike.
So, on November 29, the novelty worked and all came out to see what it was about. The eventual handle of $17.9 million would have been acceptable even if every OTB had been opened and may prove even more profitable than if they had opened. But none were. And none are likely to be for any future event regardless of the impressive turnout for the first one. It remains to be seen how OTB Operators will react if they are permanently cut out of the Sunday action. Will they stand by and support Sunday racing then?
And, then, what happens when Sunday racing is a regular fixture – not just a novelty? When the daily grind begins to include Sunday, will the horsemen’s families rebel? Will the Churchmen begin to win the war with the families of punters? What happens when Saturday’s race card includes several shock results and the wealth is not spread quite so wide? And, how will the stock of horses stand up?
There was never any doubt but that racing was and is a popular sport enjoying the support of the Jamaican (m)asses like none other. Last Sunday’s success was expected though perhaps not quite so emphatically. Novel ways of treating inherently popular pastimes will always succeed at first. The question has always been: is regular Sunday racing feasible in a churchified State like Jamaica with a small population unable to stand up to frequent financial hiccups and promises of Hellfire and Brimstone; and a hostile Bookmaking and OTB fraternity excluded from the Sunday pie.
Day One was a great start. Let’s see if the results are the same on Day 10 presuming that the Government does not produce another abrupt volte face and allow betting shops and OTBs to open. And the thousands who descended on Caymanas Park on November 29 don’t absolve the Board of Directors from criticism for acting rashly, gambling with the company’s assets and acting in apparent conflict with its shareholder’s policy.
Good Luck!


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