Sun | Jan 23, 2022

Jimmie Says | Fix unprofitable product first

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2021 | 12:09 AM
Omar Walker aboard ACTION ANN
Omar Walker aboard ACTION ANN

TO fully understand the umbrella impact that any particular system of racing, herein after called the ‘product’, has on the entire horse-racing industry, from agricultural (breeder) to betting, and the many groups between, it must be immediately accepted, without reservation, that the most important factor is whether the product is feasible for the promoting company to be viable.

The last ‘Jimmie Says’ mention of the promoter being the most important cog in modern horse racing sparked a naive ‘chicken or egg’ discussion on social media from the usual suspects. Let’s play along, just for the fun of it.

Commercial breeders of thoroughbred horses diligently examine bloodlines, amass foreign currency, at burdensome exchange rates, to purchase stallions and, in some cases, mares, not to drag ploughs on their farms but to profitably produce racing stock for sale to either established or potential racehorse owners.

Breeders’ earnings don’t stop at the annual Yearling Sale or the farm gate. Whenever a horse wins a race at Caymanas Park, the breeder of that animal collects a breeders’ bonus from the prize money put at stake by the promoter, almost exceeding the sum to be shared among the owner, jockey and trainer of the third-place horse.

Racehorse owners buy and eventually hand these animals to trainers at the promoter-maintained racetrack, not paying a dime for use of facility, to eventually race for prize money put up by the said promoting company. These horses make no contribution to sales, whatsoever, throughout a year, in most cases longer, of rent-free accommodation.

Owners pay trainers for keep and care of their horses at Caymanas Park. They do not pay the promoting company for accommodations and utilities expenses incurred in the stable area, neither for training on its racetrack, yet they had paid for lodging at the stud farm.

Owners, trainers, jockeys and grooms of the first six horses past the post in every race all get percentages of the total prize money put up by the promoter, payable whether the promoting company makes a profit from the event or not. Oh, there is also a stipend paid by the promoter, called an ‘appearance fee’, to every runner outside the first six, subsumed in raceday medication for horses and ‘losing ride’ fees for jockeys.

From the betting dollar wagered (sales), an average 68 per cent is returned to the punter as winnings, 23 goes towards purses, SVREL retains four per cent, the same as the commission paid to its off-track betting parlours, and government pockets one per cent.

Given all of the above, though barely scratching the surface, owners’ decisions to take on the responsibility of ‘investing’ in what is really a leisure activity, whether they want to admit it or not, are being subsidised by the racing promoter, who hopes to turn a profit on races by offering free lodging and prize money for its risk.

If that doesn’t answer the Facebook geniuses’ ‘chicken or egg’ debate, nothing will. On to the most important matter, the product, for which the promoting company must take every blame. Without a feasible product, there will never be viability for the most important cog.

The most common cry among horsemen is for a purse increase, joined in chorus by the promoting company, adding “free up the duties on imported horses” and “we need more owners”.

If Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) wants to join the scrap heap of Racing Promotions Limited, Horse Racing Promotions Limited and Caymanas Track Limited, by granting a second purse increase in four unprofitable years, after doling out $100 million in 2017, without revamping its system of racing (the product), it can certainly go ahead.

Here’s a question for board members of Supreme Ventures Limited, parent company of SVREL. Who among them would, for leisure sake, join president Howard Hamilton at the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s annual Yearling Sale, splash $2 million on a yearling, spend roughly another $1.2m before it is able to race in a year and a half, only to subsequently offer the said animal for sale in a $550,000 ‘claiming’ race because that’s the event the product has to match the horse’s ability to earn prize money?

Any volunteers for “we need new owners”? Did someone just leave the room?

Okay, what if someone gets ‘lucky’, like Daryl Vaz, after Howard convinces them to co-own ACTION ANN? Will Howard warn them that after winning her first race against local-breds, she could next take on imported horses making their debuts, such as STRANGER DANGER, who won nine consecutive loss-making races before facing the best horse in the country?

That one was also for you, Finance Minister Nigel Clarke, “free up the duties on imported horses” so SVREL can continue losing money on another of its product, ‘condition races’, by having superior foreigners turn events into non-betting options from which the country’s coffers earn zilch and prize money must be paid.

Is this a product (system of racing) that is feasible to the viability of the promoting company, the most important cog in the racing industry?

Can the product be changed to woo and keep new owners by having their horses, imported runners alike, face equitable competition, making events profitable for SVREL? Yes.

Does the baby (claiming) have to be thrown out with the murky bathwater (conditions) that must be discarded? No.

Next week, we will discuss how everybody can be happy campers.

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