Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Off track at the track

Published:Tuesday | September 8, 2015 | 9:38 AMDr Paul Wright, Contributor
WOMAN IS BOSS (Aaron Chatrie) was disqualified after passing the post first in the seventh race at Caymanas Park on Saturday, August 29.

Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) is losing money on a daily basis. The Government of Jamaica, the only shareholder, insists that the company will be divested. Timeline after timeline for divestment passes by with a regularity that defies logic.

A "divestment committee" is formed and the chairman insists that he is "working on it" (reminds me of a Burger King advertisement of recent vintage) when questioned by worried stakeholders.

One could not be faulted for thinking that the Government-appointed board of the company would develop a more hands-on policy as frantic attempts are made, first to minimise losses, and second, to improve the handle (the amount of money bet on its programmes), both locally and overseas.

Instead, punters, the life blood of the sport, are treated as if 'dem-mus-come'. Races never start on time. The official reason is always "technical difficulties". The air-conditioned North Lounge at the track is subject to the whims and fancies of the employees. For example, no ticket sellers are in place half-hour before the start of the first race, and air-conditioned units are either not working or not turned on at least one hour before the start of the first race to welcome the early punter.

Also, food is running out during well-established 'big' racedays, and recently, word has surfaced that fans/supporters of racing who buy four reserved seats for six months to enable these supporters of racing to bring guests to the track from time to time are told by the promoters that they will be issued with only two tickets, and if they are bringing guests who do not come to the track with the person who paid for the seat, "just ask for one of us at the gate" and it will be okay!

Woe on to the guest if the named official is not available at the time of arrival of the guest.

There is a story making the rounds at the track that last week Thursday (September 3), CTL was simulcasting races from Gulf Stream Park in the USA. The second race was won by horse #5, Behzads Pride. However, when the results were posted by the company, another horse (my source insists that it was horse #4, Unspoken Quality) was posted as the winner and dividends declared.

 

J$190,000 in losses

 

It is further alleged that punters who backed the posted winner promptly cashed their tickets. Minutes later, after a telephone call to "control", the error was corrected, and punters who correctly selected #5, Bezhads Pride, as the winner, were duly paid. My source insists that losses to CTL were in the region of J$190,000. Another loss.

The standard answer of "Oops!" will be accepted and the company moves right along to another day. Another loss!

Finally, the action of the raceday stewards in suspending jockey Aaron Chatrie after his mount, Woman is Boss, was disqualified for interfering with Asia's Dream in the seventh race on Saturday August 29 was understandable after a slow-motion review of the race. However, to suspend the jockey from taking further part in the race meet (he had two more rides for the day) because he was guilty of "ungentlemanly behaviour" when told of his disqualification, begs the question: Are the raceday stewards competent enough to make a decision that a jockey is in "no condition to ride?"

I maintain that that decision is a medical matter. Even if it is psychological, evidence from a doctor/psychologist MUST be obtained.

No decision that affects a livelihood should be made arbitrarily. It must be evidence-based. As the operation steward stated when questioned by The Gleaner reporter, Ainsley Walters, they do have a discretion (according to the rules) that is unassailable. BUT ONLY IF THERE IS EVIDENCE!

Each individual deals with anger and disappointment differently. One jockey may remain quiet and take it out on the horse or his competing jockey. Aaron Chatrie may have "blown his top" to get it all off his chest and thereafter ride in a most professional manner.

Only a steward with a crystal ball would know which is about to happen and anticipatory breach of rules just isn't allowed. This wrong MUST be corrected.