Anthony Gambrill, guest columnist
November 31, 2014
Well, well, would you believe it, divine intervention has struck again, proving that prayer breakfasts can work after all. At a time when Horace Dalley, minister-in-waiting in the Ministry of Finance, was announcing that Caymanas Track Limited has been declared bankrupt (finally) and taken off the roster of government-owned companies on the no-no IMF list, the Ministry of Agriculture has come to its rescue.
Renamed the Roger Clarke Goat-Racing Adventure Park, the 400-acre facility, purchased by his ministry for a dollar, will launch a new era of sporting entertainment and with added fringe benefits.
First of all, Minister Dalley wants to put the minds of the previous stakeholders at rest. Former racehorse owners will get a discount (not a waiver) on their next income tax payment and as many as possible of those horses that haven't been sold to Trinidadians will be offered at knockdown prices to the racetrack in St Kitts (transportation free) if it is still operating.
Incidentally, some of you might be wondering what will happen to horses, that in the past, have had to be euthanised when they broke down and sent up to feed the lion in the Hope Zoo. Regrettably, the current lion does not eat horse meat. Having appeared in four Hollywood movies, he requires a special blend of gourmet meats. Regrettably, this has pushed up the price of admission to the Hope Zoo.
Ex-jockeys will each be provided with six racing goats - details to be worked out - and free cardboard for three months. That's right, cardboard, which goats readily consume and turn into protein. This should get those vertically challenged men who take up the M of A's offer happily on the road to goat-racing ownership. Other sporting goat enthusiasts will be able to purchase racing goats assisted by almost interest-free loans from Supreme Ventures - JustBet division.
Former trainers. Some will be migrating to racetracks in North America (Miami, Tampa, West Virginia, Alberta) and the Eastern Caribbean (Trinidad Immigration Department permitting), others will need to consider alternative skill training at HEART, while some will return to operating trucking companies, gas stations and casinos, as they have in the past.
Farms where racehorses have formally been bred will be major beneficiaries as Jamaica enters the era of 'The Sport of the Small Man', replacing the redundant 'Sport of Kings'. With the usual inputs from RADA and selected inner-city dons, they will be encouraged to grow ganja for medicinal purposes and personal consumption (recreational use only).
The substantial facilities at the Caymanas location will be reallocated as an element of Minister Clarke's plan to make the venture profitable as early as possible. For instance, the equine swimming pool (to be renamed the Vincent Edwards Aquatic Centre) will be devoted to mini synchronised swimming and mini water polo training for youngsters in Gregory Park and surrounding areas.
The stables behind the groundstand will be largely converted into low-cost housing (with a few modifications, naturally), which should take some pressure off the Government. These will be promoted as a return to the traditional Jamaican yard with its characteristics of communal living. Those that are deemed too rundown will be used for stabling the racing goats for the time being.
Arrangements are being made to remodel the premium North Lounge and adjacent rooms. For instance, as directors will no longer be required with the Ministry of Agriculture 'running tings', the directors' box is being leased to a past director as a dry goods store featuring clothes sure to get you into the social pages.
The Jockey Club room will become a small man's bar with subsidized white rum, bar billiards and domino tables. (It is not anticipated that former Jockey Club members will want to be associated with goat racing).
In the spirit of 'Be Jamaica, Buy Jamaican' and giving the North Lounge cuisine more local flavour, emphasis will be put on a menu that features, naturally, goat (curried, jerked, stewed, roasted, escoveitched), Hellshire fish, Caymanas janga, and the occasional nostalgic dish like filet de cheval and medallions of cheval au Porto. Of course, ganja-smoking (for recreational purposes) will be confined to the end of the lounge where the trainers used to sit.
For those of us who remember Caymanas Track Ltd some years ago purchasing an elevator to carry the elderly punters up three floors to the North Lounge, it is reassuring to know that, while bordering on being obsolete, it was sold to a Spanish hotel near Lucea. No money changed hands, but employees of the Roger Clarke Goat-Racing Adventure Park will enjoy a deep discount when they stay at the Lucea hostelry.
But to the principal objective of this exciting new venture, the goat-racing itself. Goats, when incentivised (read: fresh grass), will race for 50 yards, each event taking place directly in front of the grandstand. Grooms will bring them from their stables straight on to the track. (The former saddling enclosure will not be required and will be converted into a fast-food take-out with a bounceabout for children).
Each goat will be assigned to a micro-skirted, Miss Jamaica-calibre young woman who will parade their goat in front of the patrons eager to spot a winner ... of the goat race, I mean. After the post parade, each goat will be coerced into a starting box (rather like the British greyhounds use). Instead of a mechanical rabbit, the goats will jump out and chase a low-hanging wire stretched across the track festooned with more fresh grass.
Strict measures will be in force to deter doping, and anyone caught with a stash of cow itch will be severely punished. It is hoped that Howard Hamilton, the iconic leader of the now-defunct Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, will step forward and lead goat-racing into the future as the first president of the TGOB Association. Goat owners and breeders will inevitably be vital stakeholders in this new enterprise.
The management is also considering introducing hamster-racing for the under-15s who have traditionally raced coins against each other on the concrete in front of the stands. There will be no pari-mutuel betting on hamster racing.
Bets on the goats will start at a dollar, with the usual array of exotic bets to tempt the hopelessly optimistic. Incidentally, all goats will be equipped with anti-theft alarms to prevent the kind of stealing that is rampant in rural Jamaica.
While the racing will be confined to a short stretch in front of the grandstand, other uses are being considered for the backstretch, etc. For instance, the infield behind the tote board: a weekly farmers market, goat-milking demonstrations, kite-flying contests, visits of a Mexican circus, staging of the Greater Portmore Miss (Tiny Tot, Teenager, Adult, Grandmother) Beauty Contest, used PPV Auto Show, and so on.
Thought is also being given to forming superannuated goats into a battalion of eco-goats available to be rented out for munching overgrown vegetation on roadsides, vacant lots, and so on. They would supersede weed whackers, and the money they earn could contribute significantly to the prize money on offer each week at Caymanas Park.
Congratulations Minister Clarke, where growing corn, rice, cassava and ornamental fish had proven a disappointment up until now, The Roger Clarke Goat-Racing Adventure Park should see agriculture in Jamaica entering a new era in economic sustainability.
Anthony Gambrill is a playwright and author. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.