Unfortunately, local horse racing continues to bleed customers of all ages.
Very few of the millennial generation are sufficiently interested to invest in a tote that extorts 30% of stakes wagered in win and 40% in exotic pools before declaring a dividend; in purchasing horses that cost a small fortune monthly to keep, care and condition for races with only 70% of an already paltry purse pool paid to owners; or in even following a sport whose media coverage ranges from mediocre to awful.
Nothing about the local horse racing product is attractive to sports fans who can enjoy myriad other sports live from every corner of the global village.
Betting on the sport, with very few exceptions, is still limited to persons who can travel to the sole race track in Jamaica or to one of many untidy, uncomfortable OTBs. The promoter doesn’t offer any real online wagering and generally behaves as if we’re still living in the 1980s when there was no competition. Mark you, there’s little competition locally since Supreme Ventures was essentially handed a gambling industry monopoly when government decided to divest Caymanas Park to its subsidiary.
Recently, I had lunch with a young turfite who is also a significant owner and breeder of horses in Jamaica for many years. I first met him as a seven-year-old infant when his father would often bring him to the races. Since becoming an adult, he has been a regular at the track attending every race day whether Wednesday, Saturday or public holiday. Without any prompting from me, he said “Local racing doesn’t interest me anymore. It’s boring. It’s generally unattractive. I’ve given away all my broodmares. My partners and I bought a stud farm in Florida and that’s where I’ll be concentrating my horse racing investments from now on.”
It’s a story I’ve heard often for the past 15 years and more as all the old stagers gradually leave the sport in disgust while very little new blood replaces them. This sport I’ve loved all my life is slowly dying and the disease is financial stupidity. No matter how much it’s proven worldwide, nobody in Jamaican racing seems to understand that, in gambling, less is more.
Reduce tote takeouts to 14-18%. Reduce “bonuses” paid to occupational licence holders to 10% (trainers); 7.5% (winning jockeys only except in graded races then 1-2-3) and abandon grooms’ bonus, which exists in Jamaica alone. Give investors incentive and change the meaning of “bonus” from a mandatory payment to a gratuitous one, which is the true meaning of the word. All of these occupational licensees earn a weekly or monthly fee (jockeys a fee per ride). Why such a large mandatory “bonus”?
I’ve already written that I fancy Crimson for tomorrow’s St Leger. I wrote last issue:
“Crimson was unraced as a two year old, but has proven himself a classy and progressive sort who, on June 22, stayed on well over 1,400m behind importee Action Run. In only his second race, he was unlucky to be beaten by Oaks 2nd Princess Ava (received 1.5kg) having to change course repeatedly as the winner intimidated by drifting out. Having gained experience since then, he seems sure to improve past her.
That form was boosted not only by Princess Ava’s second place in the Oaks but again by her facile win over two other St Leger candidates Big Bang and Berry Boy.”
Crimson boosted my expectations by slamming Tricky One (2 ½ lengths 3rd to Supreme Soul in the Governor’s Cup) by 5 lengths going away over 2,000 metres on July 13. He conceded 1kg at the conditions to the 2nd who was 7kg below Supreme Soul in the Governor’s Cup. A straight line gives Supreme Soul 4.5kg advantage over Crimson but my selection is very much on the improve while the likely favourite has had three hard races with 57kg in his back. Crimson is undoubtedly the value bet in the St Leger if he elects to face the starter. Old yardstick Princess Annie, who flopped in the Derby, so the run can be ignored, is also highly respected.
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.
On July 12, I told you the 7th race on July 6 (1,100m) was a KEY RACE from which winners would emerge. I wrote:
“the huge eye-catchers were short-head second Soul Cure (-7) whose CT (1:06.4) is 1 1/5th seconds faster than nw2 for which she remains eligible; 3rd Casual Drink (-5) with a CT 4/5ths second faster than nw2 and plenty in the tank also at 1400m+; and 4th Splendid Vision (-4) who produced a CT still 3/5th second faster than the grade. All are nailed on to win a nw2 in turn”
All three re-opposed over 1,000m straight the following day. As predicted, the trip proved too short for Casual Drink but Splendid Vision (5/1) won by ½l from Soul Cure (4/5 favourite). The Exacta returned a whopping $1,243.00 and the Quiniela $417.00. Yum, yum. Talk about splendid vision!
By now you all know this is a must read department.
July 10, 2019 [TV-0.3 per 200m (Round) -0 (straight)]
Fly First Class (-5) clocked a quick 0.59.2 (Race 5; 4yonw3/OT; 1,000m round; TV-1’). Her CT (0:59.3’) is only 1/10th second slower than Overnight Allowance average. She’s still unexposed and should have more to come when tried beyond sprints so, once the tongue strap remains, she can win again.
JULY 13, 2019 [TV-0.4 per 200m (Round) -0 (straight)]
Sparkle Diamond (-10) was imperious in victory (Race 7; Imported nw3/ Native Bred 3&4yo nw3/0T; 1000m round; TV-2) more than six lengths clear of classic placed Lady Blue (-2) in 0.58.3! The winner’s CT (0.59.0) is already 2/5ths second faster than Open Allowance so he’s something special and should be followed all the way to the top.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
The annual Glorious Goodwood meeting begins on July 30 so only a very early preview can be accommodated before Public Opinion’s deadlines. New Graduate was victimized by the soft going in Royal Ascot’s Hunt Cup but should get his preferred ground at Goodwood where he’s also likely to be better suited by this tricky switchback track. He’s a confident ante-post punt for the Golden Mile Handicap (August 2).
Dark Shot is another on which I’ve been waiting patiently to contest a big handicap sprint over a downhill course so the Stewards Cup (Handicap) on August 3 when a cavalry charge will hurtle down Goodwood’s lightning fast six furlong straight course could be his cup of tea. Notebook horse Lake Volta is also highly respected.
It’s a little early to talk Breeders Cup but I must pen a few words about dreadfully unlucky Kentucky Derby first past the post Maximum Security. Trust me, he’s the real deal. He came off an injury (not run since the first Saturday in May); tracked a strong pace in the Grade 1 Haskell; led between horses two furlongs out; and stayed on determinedly in the final furlong to win going away. Again, two furlongs out, there was a minor incident but the New York stewards seemed to know their job better than those at Churchill Downs so no action was taken.
Maximum Security has now won Grade 1 races for three year olds on sloppy and fast tracks (the Haskell had to be delayed due to extreme heat) AND he has proven he can lead or be rated. Line up, folks. With more progress certain, the Breeders Cup Classic looks to have his name on it. THAT could be his middle finger salute to the Louisiana stewards.
Let’s close with another notebook horse:
Tsar [2yo b.c. Kingman-Kilo Alpha (King’s Best)] Very slowly away on debut (July 12) in what’s usually a strong Newmarket minor event and one of the best to be run this year, he made good late headway into 4th by 2 ¼ lengths and is clearly one to keep onside. He’s a half-brother to four highly rated winners; wasn’t knocked about; will have learnt plenty from this; and rates a colt of considerable potential. He won’t be long in winning.