Paul Wright: Spotlight on racing again
The sponsorship of the Jamaica Derby and St Leger, the last two legs of racing's 'Triple Crown', has placed the 'sport of kings' in the spotlight once again. Dubbed the most popular sport in Jamaica, horse racing doubles as a business, employing thousands of Jamaicans, as well as providing a platform for the demonstration of sporting talent by equine and human athletes. But the sport has been losing money annually since the demise of the Danny Melville-led board of the promoting company, Caymanas Track Limited.
The reasons for the demise of this sport have been listed in the pages of this newspaper more than once and include a lack of betting outlets, poor administration (read management), and a tax structure that seems to ensure that the business fails. Most pundits and experts seem to agree, however, that the genesis of recovery is in the divestment of the company out of the hands of a government lacking the skills and time to properly manage and oversee this aspect of the gaming industry.
There have been numerous "applications for bids", only to have the process scuppered at the last minute (after the expenditure of millions of dollars by prospective bidders) by a government that seemingly had every intention of keeping the promoting company as an employment feeding tree for losing candidates and party 'pardees'.
The dictates of the present economic boss of Jamaica (the IMF), who seems to frown on the practice of financially supporting a failing enterprise while struggling to be fiscally responsible, has apparently forced the Government to once again appeal for "bidders".
So despite the failure to keep to the stated deadlines of finance ministry spokespersons ("Caymanas Track Limited will be divested by the end of 2014") the company WILL have to be divested this year. This fact seems to have made it easier for the promoting company to attract sponsors as there has been a flurry of activities from local companies anxious to exploit the obvious benefits from supporting the business of horse racing in Jamaica. The extravagant sponsorship of the Jamaica Derby by local manufacturing and distribution giant Cals Manufacturing Company and the sponsorship of the final leg of racing's triple crown, the St Leger, by a financial entity already involved in the sport of kings demonstrates the 'sense' of sponsorship.
ISP Financial Services Limited not only ensured that the St Leger race day took place, but its announcement that all purses earned by owners, jockeys,
trainers, grooms, and breeders would be paid immediately after the race has been declared "official", created a buzz among visitors and newcomers to the race track.
With the stakeholders constantly complaining about the length of time that it takes the promoting company to pay purses earned by the stakeholders (up to 90 days at one time) this "announcement" seemed to be just what was needed. Imagine winning a race at 3 p.m. and getting paid at 3:15 p.m.? However, my information is that this "facility" has been available for some time now for a "fee" of six per cent of money due!
Instant payment for the stakeholder, and a nice income for the financial entity ... as long as the promoting company fails to pay purses according to the international standard of 10 to 14 days! Because, if you can receive money earned in 10 to 14 days without having to pay a six per cent "fee," why collect payment immediately after the race has been declared "official"?
The St Leger on Saturday last was won by a 35-1 outsider, Superluminal, ridden by Paul (Country) Francis and trained by Harry Parsard for owners PJK Team, who seemingly have a lock on big races at the park. There was controversy, however, as there was a prolonged steward's enquiry and a jockey's objection against the winner. As the replays of the race were featured on the many monitors in the stands, the overwhelming consensus would be that the winner would have been disqualified for causing interference to the runner-up and favourite in the last furlong of the 10-furlong race.
The objection was overruled by the stewards, to the obvious relief of the supporters and connections of the winner, and to the chagrin and vocal displeasure of the supporters and connections of the favourite and runner-up, Derby winner Seeking My Dream.
I am informed that there might be an appeal, where, if the winner is disqualified and the race awarded to the runner-up, the purse would be paid to the "official" winner, while those at the track and off-track betting stations on Saturday, July 4, who wagered on the favourite would receive absolutely no compensation for their "losing" tickets on a horse that is subsequently awarded the race.