Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Church Livid

Published:Monday | January 30, 2012 | 1:00 AM
These patrons in the grandstand at Caymanas Park on were among the estimated 10,000 persons who turned up for yesterday's Sunday race meet. - Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer

THE CABINET is to discuss the issue of Sunday racing within a matter of weeks. "We note that the previous administration had approved Sunday racing. It is a matter we will be discussing soon," Information Minister Sandrea Falconer told The Gleaner yesterday.

The church community yesterday expressed outrage that the event was allowed to take place on a day generally regarded as one of rest and worship.

Rowan Edwards, head of the Jamaica Association of Full Gospel Churches, said: "Jamaica is becoming very ungodly and desperate, they are like a drowning man grabbing at straws."

"It is a total disrespect to the Church because we have been saying to them not to do this on a Sunday. But we are not going to allow this," he declared.

One government insider described the matter of Sunday racing as "very sensitive", saying the Cabinet would have to handle it delicately.

Sunday racing attracted a huge crowd at Caymanas Park yesterday and compared with the three previous Sunday meets since 2009, the $17.1 million which changed hands at the betting window was greatly appreciated by the cash-strapped Caymanas Track Limited (CTL).

This compared favourably with the historic first Sunday meet on November 29, 2009 which recorded sales of $18 million on eight races withoutthe participation of the CTL off-track betting parlours islandwide.

Nine races were run for the first time yesterday, including the St Catherine Cup feature over 1100 metres for open-allowance horses.

In the days leading up to the first meet in 2009, the Bruce Golding government took a decision through Cabinet not to allow the off-track parlours to open on Sundays in an effort to appease the Church.

Off-track betting accounts for 70 per cent of CTL sales on local racing. Hence, even with large crowds attending Caymanas Park for the previous Sunday meets, CTL either lost money or barely broke even.

Yesterday, thousands of turfites converged on Caymanas Park prior to the 1 p.m. post time and the numbers grew so large by the third race that many were locked out at the betting windows.

The car parks were filled to capacity, the weather was fine, the racing competitive and, all in all, punters welcomed this, the first Sunday meet in exactly one year.

Yesterday marked the first of four Sunday meets scheduled for this year - the second is to be on the Derby weekend of June 10, the third on July 8 and the fourth on December 16.