Tue | Mar 2, 2021

Trials and triumphs at Caymanas Park - Racing industry rebounds strongly after tough year

Published:Thursday | January 7, 2021 | 12:15 AMRobert Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Horses leaving the starting gate at Caymanas Park.
Horses leaving the starting gate at Caymanas Park.

General Manager at Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited, Lorna Gooden, described the last 12 months as a very testing yet rewarding period for the local racing industry, which rebounded well after being brought to a standstill by the spread of the coronavirus disease in Jamaica.

The 2020 year began on a difficult note for the racing promoters as Jamaica Racing Commission veterinarian Dr St Aubyn Bartlett shared that several horses at the track came down with what was described as a ‘mystery illness’, with the affected equine athletes rejecting feed, and in some cases, suffering a fever.

The industry then took a massive hit in March when the COVID pandemic struck the country as the racetrack was forced into a complete shut-down for almost four months, resulting in several grooms being laid off and a number of trainers returning their horses to their respective farms during the period.

“We started out the year with a bang, and then we were affected by the illness that affected the horses, and then came COVID, which impacted us significantly, and we were shut-down for three months,” Gooden told The Gleaner.

A memorandum of understanding, struck in May between the stakeholders and the racing promoters Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), as well as the approval of COVID-19 mitigating health and safety protocols by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, allowed for the safe return of racing on June 20.

“We then came together and developed the COVID protocols for the reopening, and we can boast that Caymanas Park was one the first to implement those protocols even before the Ministry of Health and Wellness asked us for the in-depth protocols that have been implemented,” Gooden shared.

“We are the only entertainment and sporting event that is currently happening, and we are ever grateful, and we want to make sure that we keep it going. We are strictly adhering to the protocols that have been signed off on by the ministry, and we want to keep it that way,” Gooden said.

Gooden underscored her company’s massive five-year sponsorship deal with Australia-based international betting company BetMakers Technology Group as a true testament to their commitment to the horseracing industry and a major positive in a challenging year.


The deal, which is reportedly valued at $75 million, will see SVREL providing local racing on BetMakers’ platform across the world. BetMakers will also be offering fixed odds betting as well as importing 5,000 weekly races that will allow punters to place their bets using fixed odds. A new trainers’ pavilion will be built in the name of BetMakers.

There was also major rehabilitation of roads within the stable area at Caymanas Park while several millionaires have been created from the newly curated Reggae Six bet, which replaced the Pick Six.

It was also a very successful year for trainer Anthony ‘Baba’ Nunes after he captured his second consecutive trainer’s title ahead of his rival, Wayne DaCosta.

Dane Nelson and Anthony Thomas emerged as joint champion jockeys for 2020 after they both ended the year on 84 wins. Micros (Michael Bernard) was champion owner for 2020 ahead of Carlton Watson while Stables emerged as the champion breeder ahead of Michael Bernard. Champion groom for 2020 was Tafara Wright in front of Robert Ranger.

Last year was a very difficult one for former champion jockey Shane Ellis, who was suspended for five race days and fined $75,000 for breaking Rule 143 of the Jamaica Racing Commission Rules of Racing.

Rule 143 of the Rules of Racing states: “No jockey shall bet on any race except through the owner of and on the horse, which he rides, and any jockey who shall be proved to the satisfaction of the commission to have interest in any race horse or to have been engaged in any betting transaction except permitted by this rule or to have received a present from any person other than the owner of the horse, which he is riding shall be guilty of an offence under these rules.”

Apprentice jockey Anthony Allen was also given a 21-day race ban after he was held with a device, which is known as a ‘battery’.