This past week or so, Caymanas Park has closely resembled the Upside Down in an episode of Stranger Things.

For more than 30 years, horseracing promoters have been manipulating starting times for races to accommodate perceived punters’ preference for last-minute betting. So while some of us grind our teeth in exasperation post times have been treated like expiry dates on juice cartons. As Mr. Kim (of Kim’s Convenience) would say “Expiry date just a suggestion!”

In March, a new rule (effective April 1) was announced. It mandated races must start within five minutes of published post times. It’s possible the Promoter (SVREL) believed it was an April Fool’s prank because it continued as if nothing had changed despite Stewards’ frequent public warnings.

Finally, on Saturday, April 20, brown stuff hit the fan. And splattered! Stewards abandoned two races for being egregiously late. Pandemonium ensued. Trainers led a march on the Stewards’ Room. The Racing Commission (JRC) Chairman was flushed out of his box to make a nervous-looking reaction promising to look into the matter. Indiscipline reigned like King Charles over the Royal Family’s peccadilloes.

This new rule has been a long time coming. Everybody knew. Several public warnings were given in March. In April, further warnings were issued by the Stewards and routinely ignored by the Promoter. So this sudden late furore and reported rapid capitulation by JRC are nothing more than jumping on a slippery slope to anarchy. By Monday, Gleaner reported a weak-kneed JRC folded tamely at the first sign of resistance promising to revisit the rule. Once again indiscipline defeats order and method.

The reality is that customer service in Jamaica died more than 25 years ago. Businesses now believe customers are there to serve the business, not the other way around. At least SVREL Chairman Solomon Sharpe admitted openly the reason for the post times indiscipline was to milk customers as much as possible. Customers’ business or personal schedules were of no moment. The only thing that matters is SVREL’s bottom line.

Worldwide horse races start on time. They start on time because expensive broadcast rights contracts must be honoured. They start on time because promoters respect their customers. They start on time because starters, starters’ assistants and jockeys are all disciplined professionals.

Delaying races to earn more at the Tote is myopic, counter-productive disorder. Punters bet whenever they are allowed. Mouttet Mile, broadcast live on FOX Sports, resulted in majority on-time starts (especially for the big race) and record Tote sales. 

So is FOX Sports Jamaica’s new horseracing regulator?

Then, reacting to a public plea by SVREL Chairman Sharpe, Nigel Clarke steps in immediately and holds an emergency meeting of “Stakeholders”. By Thursday, a statement is issued by Nigel saying he met with 50 horseracing “stakeholders” and it was agreed that JRC will impose “dissuasive fines” instead of abandoning races.

That attitude by Nigel is diametrically opposite to the one he struck in January 2023 when the SSL regulatory fiasco broke. Then he wrote a Gleaner op-ed distancing himself from the saga and summarized it in a subsequent Twitter thread as follows:

Any specific action required by the minister would have to be in the context of either (a) a request for, or a determination of the need for policy action, or (b) a necessary coordinated supervisory response involving the central bank and the ministry in its policy role.

What “policy role” is Nigel playing here? In January 2023, he wrote:

“A minister second guessing a regulator on matters of prudential decisions, or instructing prudential decisions is fraught with downside risk and inconsistent with international best practices.

“Such decisions could likely be severely undermined as being politically motivated, rather than technically based. This would structurally undermine regulatory integrity.”

Oh dear….

So he didn’t want to be involved in regulatory decisions before, during or after gazillions were defrauded from clients of a regulated financial institution but now puts on mask and cape and leaps to SVREL’s rescue? But it’s a problem SVREL can easily solve alone. Just start races on time.

If races were delayed hours, undisciplined bettors would still be locked out trying for last-minute bets. It will take no more than three consecutive examples of on-time starts for punters to habitually bet on time.

Indiscipline is never an appropriate response to indiscipline.



Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of track conditions’ effect on official times to arrive at “real/corrected” times); TVs are expressed in fifths of a second; “minus” (-) means a fast track; “plus” (+) a slow track (e.g -2 is fast by 2/5th second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.

Before getting into the latest update, I can’t resist reminding you of two of my five Horses to Follow for 2024 which were published in early January.

Intrestntimesahead [3yo b.c. Bold Conquest-My Friend Lucy (He’stherealthing)] is an exciting prospect after only three 2yo starts ending with an emphatic win in the 1,600m Grade 1 Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes. He’s two for two (on sloppy and fast tracks) since visors were fitted after a promising debut and his final time for the Two-Year-Old Stakes win (after correction for the day’s track variant) is 1.20 seconds faster than the average for the 2,000 Guineas. He should be a firm favourite come Guineas Day and, on breeding, a Triple Crown contender.”

He has won both of his 3yo starts to date including a facile win in the 1,500m Kingston and looks nailed on to romp the year’s first classic. Then there was:

Run Julie Run [3yo gr.f. Successful Native-Runaway Julie (Left Banker)] was only three lengths behind the 2yo Stakes’ winner but more than 10 lengths clear of the third. Her two defeats before this race came at the hands of classy importee Digital One so she is clearly the best filly around at this time. Her half sister Artesia (by Sensational Slam) stayed 1,600+ so she’s a top candidate for the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks.”

Run Julie Run romped the Portmore a day before Intrestntimesahead won the Kingston. Both recorded CTs better than Open Allowance standard so should make short work of the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas!

Now for some more for the Clock’s diary:

APRIL 20, 2024 [TV+1.0 per 200m (round) +8 (straight)]

Wall Street Trader (-2) confirmed the quality of his second time out 1½ length second to rising star Funcaandun by beating a good field of winners despite being a maiden (Race 8; Imported 3yo nw3; 1500m; TV+7.5). His winning time of 1:33.3 produced a CT of 1:32.0’ which is more than a second faster than Overnight Allowance standard. He certainly has more to come so is one to follow.

Sunday May 5, 2024 [TV+1.1 per 200m (Round) +6 (straight)]

Benson (-4) followed up on an impressive maiden win by discombobulating a decent field (Race 1; 4yonw2; 1200m; TV+7) clocking 1:14.2! His CT (1:13.0) means he should go through his conditions effortlessly (4yonw4standard = 1:13.3) and, with normal progress, be more than competitive by the time he gets to Overnight Allowance (standard 1:12.4)

Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)

The Listed Lingfield Derby trial (run on polytrack) is now a highly anticipated annual event that can have a bearing on the Blue Riband race at Epsom. In 2019, Lingfield Derby Trial winner Anthony Van Dyck went on to win the Derby. 2020 winner English King was 5th of 16 in the Derby; 2021 winner Third Realm 5th of 11; 2022 winner United Nations missed the Derby through injury; and 2023 winner Military Order was last as joint Derby favourite on ground much too fast for him.

The most likely winner this year is Charlie Appleby’s twice-raced Hidden Law bred for the synthetic tracks and a neck second on debut at Southwell then winning impressively at Newbury in the manner of a horse with much more in the tank.

In golf the PGA Championship is at Valhalla in Kentucky this year (May 16-19) and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Rickie Fowler to finally release his Major maiden tag. Rory McIlroy is everybody’s danger but is also in the throes of a very long Major drought and isn’t offering acceptable odds.  

Here’s a Notebook Horse for the flat:

Stressfree [4yo ch.g. Anodin-Gwenseb (Green Tune)] has run creditably on four of five starts since coming over from France last year looking unlucky on re-appearance at Doncaster after going through the race like a horse still on a good mark only to find another lightly-raced type too strong. His subsequent flop at Ripon as favourite seemed to confirm he’s best on a left-handed track. He remains open to improvement and should soon find a decent handicap opportunity.

Good Luck!

One thought on “Indiscipline Will Never Cure Indiscipline

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *