BY GLEN MOHAMMED
NOTE FROM QUICKGALLOP.COM – The following article was first published in the Trinidad Guardian.
“It has a nice bounce.”
This was how the late Venice “Pappy” Richards described the turf track after inspecting it on race mornings at Santa Rosa Park.
Richards, 76, died on Monday at the Humming Bird stud farm opposite the Santa Rosa track.
“A nice bounce” is the description he would use on a regular basis if the turf track was soft, and he would advise trainers and jockeys where was the best part of the track for them to have their horses during the race.
He lamented that when it rained he could not understand why jockeys did not want to ride on the turf. He explained, based on his several decades of riding experience on the turf, that the track was safer when it was soft or heavy, but the rider had to know how to use the surface. He felt a lot of the riders plying their trade at Santa Rosa did not have that experience, and hence they revolted against riding on soft or heavy turf.
He admitted that on some occasions the turf track was deep (when it rained heavily) and it took a toll on the horses, so some jockeys influenced other riders to support them because their mounts had a greater chance of winning on the main track. However, he pointed out that jockeys needed to support their horses’ heads to see them through the race when the track was soft or heavy.
In his later years, Richards was mandated with the task of inspecting the turf track every race morning when there was turf racing. But over the years he also spoke about his long and illustrious riding career.
I was fortunate to have several discussions with him about that career, and on one occasion I raised the topic of his ride on Royal Colours in the 1982 Trinidad Derby and asked why he snatched the whip out of jockey Pradeep Singh’s hands. He answered with a provocative smile and said: “My horse needed it.”
And though a man of few words, Richards was happy to talk about his fellow ace Barbadian riding colleague, Challenor “Chally” Jones.
“He was a smart rider but I knew him, and he knew that,” is how Venice described Jones. He also spoke with a broad smile of outsmarting Chally in Classics races, but maintained that Jones was a good rider and dear friend to him.
Among trainers he rode for, he placed Eric “Colt” Durant at the top. He said the instructions he was given that led to Royal Salute’s victorious gallop for the 1983 Derby, which he went on to win, was one of the many great feats that Colt accomplished.
Royal Colours was also a horse he loved to speak about, and he always maintained that he did not misjudge the finishing line when Royal Colours ended fourth in the 1982 Clasico Del Caribe at El Commandante, Puerto Rico.
A fine horseman, it was very disappointing that Venice, as most of us called him at the track, was not utilised in the training of local jockeys, but instead was given the task of opening and closing the track on mornings. He accepted it because he needed a job after falling from grace in Barbados with a director at Garrison Savannah.
A lot of horsemen who were working a stone’s throw away from where Richards died were unaware that he was staying on the farm. But his death in obscurity cannot take away the joy that Richards brought to the people of this country when racing was racing at Queen’s Park Savannah, Union Park Turf Club, and Santa Rosa Park when it was a turf course solely.
Richards will eventually be forgotten by some, but he will be remembered by many of us who were fortunate to see him ride.