2009 – NOT SO GOOD YEAR

At last! The most significant positive for 2009 (the abandonment of the Sunday Racing “experiment”) has snuck in just before the end of the year.
Business sense has prevailed over macho muscle-flexing at last! This was always a no-brainer because of Jamaica’s peculiar political and commercial realities but, somehow, many of the best and brightest among us refused to let go of what is a nice thought but one impossible of implementation here. If you take the cries of “victory” after the first abomination of November 29 seriously, you might not see clearly how much of an abject failure the experiment was and was always going to be. The only persons claiming that Sunday racing was a “success” are pundits whose money was not spent putting it on. The racing promoter, whose Board of Directors made a pathetic and suicidal decision to press on regardless, lost $3 million the first day and more on the second.
Those trumpeting “success” point to the record crowds at Caymanas Park on November 29 and, in hushed and awed tones, of the people they saw at the track that they haven’t seen for decades. When they put down their roseate spectacles and start to look at the “crowd” through clear glasses, they will recognize that this was a racing certainty when you close all the OTBs where these people had been frequenting in preference to the long, hot, irritating and harassing trip to the racetrack. Furthermore, if all you can do is to attract old-time fans, you have just hammered another nail into racing’s coffin. For the sport to live, new fans must be attracted and this cannot be done on a 196 acre property alone.
And therein lies the rub. Sunday racing is a nice thought. Briefly. It works in the U.S.A (where, incidentally, Monday to Friday racing works just as well) where there is a constitutional separation of Church and State entrenched and traditionalised for 250 years; and (not so well) in England where the Queen is an absolute ruler, the head of the Church of England and an Act of Parliament has constitutional law effect. Read my lips folks, JAMAICA IS DIFFERENT!! We have a Government which, to quote a current Cabinet Member, contains mostly “wimps, lackeys and yes men” and a powerful Church lobby with much to lobby against if your brilliant “plan” is to open numerous filthy and loud denizens of “evil” right in the face of our several Churches islandwide. And please stop this nonsense about the seventh day Adventists worshipping on Saturdays. The overwhelming majority of Jamaican Churches, traditional and fundamentalist, worship on Sunday. In the Church hierarchy, the seventh day Adventists are a minority and were even more so when horse racing was introduced decades ago on a Saturday.
But this goes far beyond simply giving the Church what for. This was, as I keep saying, a flawed business plan implemented in a careless and thoughtless manner. As soon as the Promoter’s sole shareholder made it clear (however belatedly and however unfairly) that IT DID NOT WANT SUNDAY RACING, a light should have gone on in somebody’s head to the effect that maybe, just maybe, this experiment should be re-evaluated. The Promoter has been fortunate that they have not yet faced serious consequences of not turning on that light in the swamp that passes for commercial brains at CTL these days. It is unlawful, in my opinion, and a serious breach of CTL’s contracts with the OTBs, for CTL to open while their OTBs are closed; to force OTB customers to travel to the track to bet thereby depriving the OTBs, who still have expenses on that day, of the commissions that they would otherwise have earned.
And there is the issue of the Bookmakers. Like it or not, over the years, Bookmakers have been given a legitimate expectation of being able to take bets on the morning of every single local raceday not only on local but also on overseas racing that day. It is a breach of that legitimate expectation for a race day to go forward without the bookies and CTL has exposed its shareholder, the Government, to a huge lawsuit from the bookies in this regard. Anywhere else in the world, a Board would have been fired for these silly and careless actions. CTL Boards have been fired for a lot less.
Folks, commerce is not run in this haphazard fashion. Here’s some of the things that must be in place before this nation can even think about flipping its national middle finger at the church and trying Sunday racing:
• All Bookmakers must be computerized as a pre-requisite of their licence; betting with the bookies must be available online at secure websites so that they may participate fully in betting on Sunday racing without offending the overly sanctimonious amongst us;
• CTL’s OTBs must undergo significant face-lifts; private air-conditioned rooms must be included in every single one; and Television sets equipped with closed captions so that the race can be broadcast without noise nuisance to the surroundings; rules against excessive noise-making must be introduced and enforced on every raceday not just Sunday;
• CTL must offer a reliable telephone betting system; races must be telecast live on cable with the technology available to bet from one’s bedroom using the television remote;
• Sunday racedays must not exceed one per month at the outset and must be low-budget days (no Graded Stakes or Open Allowance purses to pay).
On the racetrack, there were two imperious performances this year, both of which are either being ignored or denigrated by normally intelligent pundits. The great Wayne DaCosta duly landed his ninth Trainers’ Championship with more than double the number of winners saddled and stakes earned than his nearest rival. This was a performance of unprecedented brilliance which has not yet even received a footnote in most reviews I have seen or heard. And then there is the genius that is Omar Walker, not surprisingly the Champion Trainer’s retained jockey, who won his third consecutive jockeys’ Title despite being sidelined by injury for the last two months of the season at a time when his lead in the Jockeys’ race was only 14. When was the last time any jockey won 3 consecutive championships in Jamaica?
And all I can hear on radio and TV is a lot of cowardly whinging about how poor “Country” Francis was abandoned by his Trainers and prevented from winning the Championship. One caller to a popular radio show actually went so far as to posit that over the last two racedays, when he needed only 2 to tie and 3 to win, he was given only “curs” to ride and had no chance. Really? Well, if that is so then there are countless thousands of idiots among racing enthusiasts and punters who repeatedly made these “curs” the off-time favourites race after race after race. Many of them were odds-on favourites.
And this weeping about lack of trainer loyalty is unworthy, unfair to trainers and totally contemptuous of the fantastic achievement of Omar Walker. Jockeys bring nothing to the racing industry save for some skills and cunning. With the possible exception of a whip and a pair of riding boots, they make absolutely no investment in racing. No one owes them any loyalty whatsoever. Jockeys will find that trainers are as loyal to them as they are to the trainers. Trainers are entitled to demand loyalty from Jockeys not the other way around. Any of the whiners for Paul Francis know of his work ethic? Where was he when Dal Brown was handling a fractious Herroyalhighness early morning after early morning after early morning. What right has he to suddenly jump up on this horse on race day and probably throw away the race due to lack of knowledge of her idiosyncrasies or plain incompatibility?
And, since there’s this loud and cacophonous wail in support of Paul Francis, let’s look at some inconvenient facts during the last two months of the racing year: First Time Lucky (not so lucky under Paul Francis on November 21; 2nd by ½ length); Flintstone (hurriedly ridden by Paul Francis on December 12; all over the winner a furlong out; 1 length second at the wire); Forever Mine (HD 2nd on December 12 with a desperate-looking Paul Francis out-finished by young Dick Cardenas); Designed For Luck/Skyway Express (howling favourites on Dec 23; Royal Dreamer, Big Man and Rose of Sharon (touted by one TV Anchor as a racing certainty) on that fateful last day? What if Winston Griffiths or Omar Walker had ridden these horses. Would they, or their supporters, be crying about lack of loyalty?
And where were the whiners when Francis was handed easy winners like Ron Ron (8l winner; November 21); Felicidad (5 ½ length winner; November 21); Saeed (December 5) and the said same BIG MAN (easy winner on November 4) about which there is much weeping, wailing and knashing of teeth now!! Francis was happy to ride Flintstone on December 12 when he thought it couldn’t lose so why ought he not to ride it in the Two Year Old Stakes?  Why is loyalty on December 12 suddenly disloyalty on December 26?  Similarly, he did cartwheels to ride BIG MAN on November 4 but now he is a “cur” on December 26?  Come on, guys, when you are writing for or broadcasting to the nation, you have a responsibility to base your comments on thorough research and meticulous preparation. Do not blow off steam through your pockets or in support of friends for friendship sake. Get the facts!!
Good Luck!

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One Response to “2009 – NOT SO GOOD YEAR”

  1. wilbert witter Says:

    I agree with you totally.Be careful you are not thrown off the track like Lucien Chen and Donovan Alexander were some years ago by the present racing ‘GOD’

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