Orville Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Racehorse Owners' Association president, Laurence Heffes, has thrown his support behind the racehorse trainers in opposition to the $20 a day per stall fee imposed by Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) effective October 1.
On Thursday, September 27, members of both the Vin Edwards-led Jamaica Racehorse Trainers' Association and the United Racehorse Trainers' Association under the presidency of Richie Todd, voted unanimously to reject the new 'tax' at a joint meeting of both associations in the Trainers' Room at Caymanas Park, saying it was "ill-conceived and repressive".
The $20 a day fee, which CTL said would assist with maintenance costs, would net the cash-strapped promoting company revenues of $10 million annually.
Reacting to this new develop-ment, Heffes said the move by CTL was not only "inappropriate and unaffordable in the scheme of things, but unheard of in the United States and other racing jurisdictions.
"It only serves to put more pressure on the fragile racing industry," said the former champion owner.
"The stakeholders in general have been working closely with CTL for the welfare of the industry which is going through challenging times.
"What needs to be done is to strengthen the working relationship to see how best cost-saving can be achieved," he added.
"All in all, it is we the 600-plus owners who foot the bill and any increase at this time, regardless of how small, could impact negatively on our ability to pay," he concluded.
Meanwhile, the over 130 trainers at the meeting also called for the immediate resignation of CTL board chairman Joseph A. Matalon due to his autocratic management style.
The trainers were addressed by Edwards and Todd, after which a letter was prepared to the CTL board informing them of their decision and urging the board to withdraw the fee as it is not workable.
Edwards said the special meeting of both trainers' associations was convened to "send a strong message to those people who come here and try to dictate to people who have been in racing in this country for over 40 years as to what works and what does not."
Recalling that CTL lost $127 million in 2011 resulting in the continued late payment of purses, Edwards said the trainers fork out $1.3 billion annually for the upkeep of horses yet only $425 million is available for purses.
One trainer with 20 stalls disclosed that although a $20 fee would appear small on the surface, when this is added up on an annual basis it will cost him an additional $120,000.