Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Paul Wright | Urgent changes required at Caymanas Park

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2019 | 12:16 AM
Supreme Soul (left), ridden by Shane Ellis, winning the 45th Running of the Jamaica 2000 Guineas, over 1600 metres at Caymanas Park on Sunday.

The 1000 and 2000 Guineas weekend at Caymanas Park last Saturday and Sunday provided excellent entertainment for the stakeholders and fans alike. There were 21 races on show and the expectation and excitement at the track were palpable. The ‘handle’ for the two days was approximately $56 million for the 11 races on Saturday, and $43 million on Sunday.

Using data available, it is my opinion that this amount of money bet on the races will be inadequate to cover the expenses that the promoter (SVREL) will have to find in order to be viable. In other words, I believe that the weekend was a financial loss for the company.

This is serious. If the promoter continues to lose money on days when it is expected that bumper crowds would mean bumper betting, then the writing is essentially on the wall for the future of racing.

Since taking over the racetrack over two and a half years ago, the promoter has changed the board, management personnel, etc, with having no real increase in the mainstay of racing promotion – more betting. The promoter has to find ways of attracting new clients, and also find ways of increasing the ever-diminishing horse population.

With all the hoopla and fanfare with ‘exciting new announcements’ the handle still falls below break-even. The only way to improve the financial situation at Caymanas Park is to import more horses and attract new bettors.

The dilemma facing the promoter is that the betting public has at its disposal many other betting opportunities.

When someone makes a decision to make a bet, there must be a realistic chance of making a profit on the amount of money staked if the bet is successful. The greater the possibility of return, the greater will be the incentive to bet.

At Caymanas Park, this past weekend, there were times when the bettors’ stake was returned, even though a successful wager was made. How, in the name of all that is reasonable, is that fact expected to encourage betting?

In other racing jurisdictions, the bettor is guaranteed an increase on his/her stake for a successful wager. Last weekend, the promotion attracted many new faces to the racetrack.

Friends and family of the ‘diehards’, who saw the weekend of racing as a great way to relax, and enjoy the spectacle of thoroughbreds and their handlers (jockeys, grooms and trainers) vying for supremacy.

I heard many squeals of delight at a successful selection turning to groans when the bettor realised that his/her stake was returned –no profit, and no incentive to bet again.

The new chairman of the company has boasted on television of the number of “racing people” on his board (including himself) and yet, so far, no attempt is made to cease this abnormality of $50 place for any horse that came first, second or third in a race.

Further, what is to be gained by a system that insists on “claiming” on a track where the horse entered in a claiming race is known to those who are expected to claim the animal?

As a result, when the horse that is claimed and then entered in a claiming race well below its perceived value, there is very little or no betting on that race as the returns on the investment wagered for a successful run will be $50 win and $50 place, the minimum stake!

Return to handicap system

The return to a handicap system with the occasional optional claiming race must be urgently implemented, or there will continue to be days when the ‘handle’ cannot support the day’s expenses, and no business can continue for long, no matter how much goodwill is in the heart of the owner.

An urgent change is needed at Caymanas Park, or local racing will die.

Congratulations are in order for trainer Anthony ‘Baba’ Nunes, and his support group of owners, grooms and jockeys, for what must have been the most successful Guineas weekend in the history of local racing.

Not only did trainer Nunes win both feature races on show, (the 1000 and 2000 Guineas), but he won seven of the 21 races on offer and had several other of this horses earning on the day. Well done, trainer Nunes. The sky seems to be your only limit.