Sat | Aug 8, 2020

Paul Wright | Character attacks don’t help racing

Published:Tuesday | December 3, 2019 | 12:00 AM
SARATOGA SIGHT, ridden by Christopher Mamdeen, battles BRUCE WAYNE all the way to the finish line to claim the Reynold Gonzales Memorial Cup at Caymanas Park in St Catherine on Thursday, March 23, 2019.

The sport of horse racing is important to the economy, to the stakeholders, to the fans, and to me. Locally, the sport is going through a rough time. The handle ‘the money bet on races’ is not enough to offset the cost of putting on the show. Therefore, as its number one fan, owner, breeder, and punter, I have more than a passing interest in doing what I can to ensure that the sport regains the viability that was a feature of days gone by. Efforts to malign my character by writers that don’t bet, don’t own, or don’t even support the game will not deter my efforts in making racing the ‘sport of kings’ again.

The welfare of the horses and the stakeholders (the grooms and the jockeys, and the owners and the blacksmiths, et cetera) will always be foremost in my writings and entreaties. The money that is being touted as being spent in the past three years by the latest promoter of the sport, is not being spent on the safety and welfare of the horses and grooms.

The article published in this newspaper highlighting the attack of scorpions on horses is real, and there were quotes from affected owners and trainers about the effect on the bitten horses and the economic cost of the attacks.

The remedy is to have stated and regular days for spraying. The ‘today-we-spray, maybe next week or next-month-we-spray’ cannot be the answer. The timing of the removal of garbage and horse dung is a problem. Thirty concrete receptacles strategically placed on the property are needed. This is a recommendation from the Ministry of Health and NEPA, yet to date, even though the sums are budgeted, no concrete receptacles have been built. Therefore, garbage, flies, and vermin are a problem.

The lack of toilet facilities for grooms in the stables IS a problem. The plan to have strategically placed toilets has started but is so far stymied, while as another article in this newspaper pointed out, grooms have been using the bushes and other receptacles. Not good. Then we come to the safety of the equine athlete, the horse.

The sport in California came desperately close to being closed because of an increase in the death of horses on the track. It is therefore incumbent on the authorities to have people and protocols in place that seek to minimise the possibility of horse demise.

Avoidable tragedy

The deaths of WINTER IS COMING and SARATOGA SIGHT, two of our best horses, on Saturday is a tragedy that should have and could have been avoided.

There has to be a system in place for the restraint of a horse deemed to be a late non-starter for whatever reason by the veterinarian at the starting gate. Horses cannot and should not, be allowed to be taken back to the saddling area until the race in question has been completed.

There will be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy (two horses colliding head-on), but until the results of the investigation are known and published, it is obvious that a set policy MUST be in place and followed by the personnel entrusted with the care of those horses that have been disqualified at the starting gate. No leader or company likes criticism, but there are times when critics and their observations are meant to help and improve a sport that is at present not doing as well as promised.

As I stated previously, and again, there is a need for all the people involved in making racing successful – the promoter, the stakeholders, the regulators, and the betting public – to meet and have solutions discussed, and agreed with TIMELINES for execution.

As Confucius said, “To be wealthy and honoured in an unjust society is a disgrace.” More can and should be done to improve the health and welfare of the horses, grooms, punters, and, indeed, everyone involved in racing. Attacking the character of those who are trying to help is just wrong.