Trainers drawn on Lotto Classics handicap
The 22nd running of the Lotto Classics for the Governor's Cup at Caymanas Park this Saturday is no longer the 'poor man's derby', some observers at yesterday's launch argued. The event holds a special place in Jamaicans' hearts because it is a race where trainers with lesser reputations believe they have a good chance of winning.
The change from a handicap to a conditional system some years ago means lesser rated horses have less chances of winning the event. As a result, many are calling for a return to the handicap system so all trainers have a chance for a big payday.
At yesterday's launch at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, the concern was once again raised, and Denzil Miller, Supreme Venture Racing and Entertainment's racing secretary, said it is a valid point and a committee has been organised to review the issue.
However, trainer, Richard Azan, argued that it is harmful to jockeys and takes the advantages from superior horses.
"The JRC (Jamaica Racing Commission), years ago, raised the minimum weight from 48 to 50 kilos to aid the health of the riders. When we set the weight of horses based on performances and they fall below 50 kilos, the public believes the kilos allotted give the animal more of a winning chance," Azan said.
The handicap system for this race altered to a conditional system because of alleged corruption to the process, but Miller said if the assessment and allotment process is fair, there should not be an issue.
"I don't have an issue as along as it's done in a healthy medium, and choosing the right riders who make weight rather than those forced to make weight, it can only help. Now a committee was set up to review all the rules of racing, and that was one.
"We await a response from the racing commission. It's on the table, and we hope it happens in the shortest possible time," he said.
Azan argued that the handicap system is a danger to jockeys and put higher-graded horses at a disadvantage.
"If the minimum weight is 50 kilos and another horse is 57 kilos, then he has to be a super horse to win. Most jockeys cannot go under 50 kilos. To ride at 50 kilos, their body weight must be 48.5 kilos at least because the saddle and other gears add up to one-and-a-half kilo.
"Jockeys hurt themselves keeping their weight down, and studies show it's detrimental. So a jockey can't go below his basic weight, or they will be weak and cannot ride," Azan insisted.
A top-class field is expected for the 10-furlong event with a purse of over $3 million, with the sponsors contributing $1.55 million. Punters will also get a chance to win $100,000 from the Mega Wheel promotion or through free Lotto tickets.