Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Saturday vs Sunday racing

Published:Saturday | November 18, 2017 | 12:00 AMHoward Hamilton
Horse racing at Caymanas Park.

Not for the reasons most people think, but horse racing on Sundays might be coming to Caymanas Park real soon.

All over the world some of the most prestigious thoroughbred championship races are held on a Sunday: The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Japan Cup, Hong Kong Cup, Irish Derby, Haskell in New Jersey, Queens Plate in Toronto, English 1000 Guineas etc., etc., etc.

The late Father Sean Breen would hold Sunday Mass at Galway Racetrack and give a tip to the congregation. He was one of the best-known priests in Ireland for his delight in, and prowess on the turf, a canny tipster and a lucky racehorse owner. His definition of the spiritual dimension was comprehensive and allowed him to give betting tips to punters i.e., those who make a bet.

From the pulpit of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare, Father Breen sometimes dispensed sage advice during Mass to the schoolchildren in his congregation: "If you have a bet, stick to your first choice, and only gamble what you can afford to lose." Now before casting aspersions at Father Breen please read Matthew 7:5. Ireland is a deeply religious Catholic country.

When the issue of Sunday racing came up in the not too distant past, Gordon House sided with the Sunday Church and argued that crime and violence would increase as a result. Yours truly, an avid racing fan and having no dog in the hunt, no skin in the game as it were, would argue that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that crime increased because of Sunday racing or would decrease if the races were not held on a Sunday in the above countries.

With the Church and the then government against Sunday racing, why would it become a reality now? The Seventh Day Adventist Church is one of the fastest growing denominations in Jamaica. Their members have their footprints and fingerprints all over the current government, and as everyone will remember, the current governor general, appointed by an Adventist Prime Minister, in respect for his religious observances to which he is entitled, chose to swear-in the current Prime Minister for his previous term on a Sunday. That was, in the humble opinion of yours truly, totally disrespecting of Sunday worshippers.

The Sunday Church at the time, was so blindfolded or pre-occupied with the by then off -the-agenda Sunday racing that there was not even the squeak of a mouse to be heard from them. In other words they said diddly-squat. So, with the Adventist Church so dominant in Jamaican Society and in the government at large, could it be that they move this 'evil crime breathing' activity to a Sunday from their day of worship and in so doing keep the Sabbath Holy? If I were a gambling man I would be seeking odds on Parliament addressing the matter in the not too distant future?

For the nonce, the reality of Sunday racing might be a bridge too far. However, what needs more immediate attention by this administration is the Public General Holidays Act of 1895, which for the exception of National Labour Day, does not grant a subsequent day if the 'Holiday' falls on a Saturday addressing Sundays only. One would have thought that Pernell Charles, said to be a Sabbath keeper, would have addressed the issue when he was Minister of Labour.

This Parliamentary Act is so totally antiquated that it forbids newspapers from being printed on Public General Holidays but not radio or TV broadcast and stipulates for violators to be fined a paltry sum not exceeding twenty dollars!

Penalties must serve as a deterrent and not be a laughing matter. The 'holiness and or reverence' attached to Sundays must also apply to Saturdays and show that when the motto says 'out of many one people' it really meant to be that: Non-discriminate of all members of the society. The Minister of Justice has the power to declare a Public General Holiday as it were and should, in cases where a Public General Holiday falls on a Saturday, declare the preceding Friday as a holiday.

Hold the referendum today and an overwhelming majority of the people will vote in the affirmative.

- Howard Hamilton, C.D. J.P. is a former chairman of Caymanas Track Limited. He is the current president of Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.