The new horse racing promoter has tried manfully for two years to revive a dying sport but CPR isn’t working and there are no defibrillators in sight.
SVREL’s unaudited accounts claim almost $200 million in capital expenditure has been made but fans aren’t seeing the money in the ground. In any event, it’s clearly not enough.
In bidding for the race track, SVREL’s parent, SVL, promised improved facilities including immediate installation of elevators for easy access to all floors; renovations of existing and construction of new bathrooms; construction of new cashier stalls; complete renovation of the entrance area to facilitate separate, open general and members’ access; construction of “Block B” encompassing a ground floor entry pavilion; gaming lounge and simulcast centre; VIP lounge; private boxes; and more.
Like seasonal workers in North Coast tourism, we’re still waiting.
The truth is SVL bid to acquire a basket and promised to carry water in it. The development and modernization of Caymanas Park were never on. When the race track was completed in 1958, it was a pristine masterpiece located in the midst of a large sugar estate formerly owned by prominent race horse owner Alex Hamilton. Since that time, housing developments have surrounded and entrapped the property and social (more often anti-social) difficulties have mushroomed. Adjoining residents breach the race track’s minimum security to capture water and electricity; crime rates are high and criminals often rub shoulders with racing personnel on exercise mornings. Gunmen have free access and at least two race horse trainers have been murdered at their stables in broad daylight; amenities are rundown; and facilities for transport and parking deplorable.
To refurbish that mess is fiscally impossible. Did SVL know this before it bid? What did SVL really, really want? Sugar? Or Spice?
The plain truth is that horse racing has outlived its time in Independence City. Any revival must begin by attracting investors (including SVL if it wants) to build a brand new race track at a different venue, preferably on the north coast. The problem is that, in its desperation to off-load the track, Government gave SVL an islandwide monopoly on horse racing promotion. This must be undone, preferably by consensus but basically by any means necessary. Any new paradigm can’t rely on horse racing alone as this isn’t sufficiently profitable to make investment sense. But horse racing is vital to Jamaica’s well-being as it offers so many crucial spin-offs including lower crime rates and increased indirect government revenues, that a way must be found to sustain it. That way can only involve a new relocated race track as a part of an integrated entertainment centre to include shopping malls, cinemas, theatres, casinos, and restaurants.
The racetrack itself must include tracks with a synthetic surface (less prone to causing injuries than deep dirt tracks and easier to maintain); a separate turf track and a layout design more challenging than the boring USA-style left-handed oval for variety and greater viewing excitement.
It’s the job of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) to research options and advise the finance minister on this sort of visionary prospect for a racing revival. It’s not the BGLC’s job to spend gazillions sponsoring races run on an obsolete race track at an inappropriate location for the benefit of a private sector entity.
If we keep looking in our rear-view mirrors, we won’t see where we should be going and are doomed to crash. Heed sage advice from Seven Little Girls as offered by songwriters Bob Hilliard and Lee Pockriss and delivered by singer Paul Evans:
Keep your mind on your driving.
Keep your hands on the wheel.
Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead.
We’re having fun sitting in the back seat
kissing and a-hugging with Fred!
Don’t lust for what’s behind you. It may seem great but is really trouble. With a capital T! Keep your gaze fixed on the future.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
March 6, 2019 [TV-0.4 per 200m (Rd)]
Stranger Danger (-7) seemed to take a significant step to confirm advance notices as the best horse in Jamaica (Race 8; Ash Wednesday Trophy; Overnight Allowance; 1300m; TV-3) dismantling the grade by 6 lengths in 1:17.3! His CT (1:18.1) is only 1/5th second slower than Grade 1 standard. One to follow!
Sebastian (-13) won the fastest of two divisions (Race 7; 3yomdn condition; 1500m; TV-3) clocking 1:33.1 to win by ¾ length from Lady Kawen (-12) with Envisaged (-8) third. This is a KEY RACE.
The winner’s CT (1:33.4) is a full second faster than nw2 so he’s a cinch to repeat. The 2nd is almost two seconds faster than the average for maiden special weight. Losses are only lent. The third produced a CT of 1:34.4 which is a second faster than the grade. She’ll be even better over further.
Extruder (-10) won Division I (Race 5; TV-3) in 1:33.4 and his CT (1:34.2) is 2/5th second faster than nw2 standard. But the ones to take from this division are the 2nd Black River (-7) and the 3rd CAIRO (-6) whose CTs (1:35.0/1:35.1) are 4/5th/3/5th second faster than maiden special weight.
March 16, 2018 [TV+0.2 per 200m (Rd) +4 (Jason’s Gold; Traditional Medicin +1 (Boss Izzy)]
Lady Blue (-2) and Toona Ciliata (-3) won the Guineas trials (Races 9 and 11; 3yo Graded Stakes; 1400m; TV+1) in good style showing smart form. Their respective CTs (1:25.4/1:25.3) bettered the Overnight Allowance average by 2/5th/3/5th second so both are real deals. The latter seemed to have stamina in reserve so also enters the Derby picture.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
After the excitement of Cheltenham, some decent races are on at Newbury tomorrow (forecast going good to soft; soft in places) including the first three races on the card all offering early betting. We’ll look at them separately:
Class 3 Handicap Chase (5yo+ 0-140; 3m2f; 1405GMT; 8.05 Jamaica Time)
The short list includes dour stayer Le Reve (capitalized on a falling handicap mark to win his last two; a frequent winner at Sandown); Classic Ben (off the mark over fences at Sandown by a neck on his fifth attempt on last); Joe Farrell (out-and-out stayer who’ll come into it if the ground dries out); and Calipso Collonges (unexposed over fences and sure to relish all conditions here). The last named is the pick.
Paul Nicholls’ stable has been on fire lately and his French import Friend Or Foe won on British debut (Ludlow) in fine style. He could win again.
EBF & TBA Mares “National Hunt” Novices Hurdle Series Final (Grade 2; Limited Handicap; 4yo+; 2m4f118y; 1515GMT; 9:15am Jamaica Time)
The day’s feature! Howling favourite at time of writing is Nicky Henderson’s She Mite Bite (by the same sire as his Grade 1 star Might Bite) but she seems to be begging for at least 3 miles so “mite” be vulnerable here to the likes of progressive Off The Hook (close 3rd in a listed novice in December before landing a maiden on last). Highly fancied The White Mouse and Etamine du Cochet would need drying ground to be at their best.
Don’t forget a new flat season is around the corner and the Lincoln Handicap is scheduled for March 30 (an off week for Public Opinion). It’s still too early to be sure but, if the ground is riding soft, you should expect low number draws to dominate. KYNREN was 2¾ lengths 3rd of 20 in last year’s Spring Mile (off 5lbs lower than now) then his form dipped on fast summer ground before ending the year 2l 5th of 20 (off 99) to Sharja Bridge in Ascot’s Balmoral Handicap (soft). He’s certainly worth a try off 98.
Finally, a Notebook horse coming out of Cheltenham:
Cartwright [6yo b.g High Chaparral- One So Marvellous (Nashwan)] lost all chance in the first few strides of the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle after a standing start cost him around ten lengths. Despite never looking like winning, he made eye-catching late ground to finish 15 lengths fifth behind impressive winner Early Doors. There’s at least one handicap hurdle in his near future.