KINGSTON, Jamaica – YES, racing returned to Caymanas Park last weekend after a long gap because of the pandemic.
It was different – a limited number of paying spectators in the stands and some, at a cost, were allowed on the infield to watch the races.
The health protocols demanded by the health authorities were maintained, and the action on the track was exhilarating.
ON THE TRACK
The day belonged to trainers Gary Crawford and Vincent Atkinson. Both conditioners had two winners each, with Atkinson winning his first race.
Interestingly, both Crawford and Atkinson missed out on landing triples. Crawford’s Action Run finished second, and Atkinson’s Sensational Satin failed to win by the narrowest of margins.
Of the top three trainers on the money list comprising Anthony Nunes, Wayne DaCosta, and Gary Subratie in in that order, only the latter saddled a winner in the 11 races on offer. Is this a sign of the new times or a mere aberration? Only time will tell.
Apprentice Calvin Bailey rode his first winner and is to be congratulated. At the same time, special mention is given to Kiaman McGregor who rode a mature and well-judged race on Chace The Great, even without the full use of one of his feet in the irons.
Four of the 11 races were won by horses drawn at post position number one, including the longest shot of the day Superbolt at 28-1. It was a rare feat by Superbolt to win from the number one draw in a straight race.
One thing is clear, all the professionals in the sport welcomed the return of racing, and the first day was promising.
A limited number of spectators was allowed in the Park to maintain proper social distancing.
Most punters followed the health guidelines when purchasing their tickets and while watching the races, as the realities of the new normal were accepted.
Preliminary reports from the off-track betting parlours (OTBs) suggest adherence to the protocols, with operators using their initiative to keep customers happy.
The handle on the day, just over $46 million, is an indication that punters were yearning for a return to the track and were prepared to follow whatever guidelines have been put in place.
THE PROMOTING COMPANY
Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), the promoter of the sport, was on spot.
Sanitising stations were placed at all the critical areas, temperature checks were abundant, and with the assistance of private security and the police, they managed the social distance aspect effectively.
The racing office deserves kudos for putting together an engaging programme that suited everyone, which was evidenced by the handle at the end of the day.
There needs to be clarification from SVREL on the issue of purses. Based on the official race book, purses remained the same as before COVID-19. It was reported that as part of an agreement brokered among the stakeholders, purses would be cut by four per cent across the board. Clarity is needed before Saturday’s purses are paid.
FIRST DAY GRADE
The cohesiveness that came to the fore by the professionals, the promoting company, racing officials, and the public demonstrated what can be achieved when there is a common fixity of purpose. They all wanted races to be run and all did what was necessary to achieve that goal.
The team from the Supreme Racing Guide (SRG) was at the Park from 10:30 am for the 12:15 pm start. They watched closely as patrons entered, checked where the sanitisation stations were located, and looked on when the horses entered the paddock. They also had a presence when horses were being saddled and were in the Parade Ring as well.
Heavy emphasis was on monitoring the Club Stand and Grandstand, where most of the spectators were congregated.
After consultation, the team is offering a passing grade of 85 per cent.
There are going to be some tweaks needed when an analysis of the day is done.
Uncertainties arose at the early stage of the day as to which of the gates were to be used by the various entities, including some media houses. There needs to be clear communication from SVREL as to where to enter and where to park. It can’t be that some are allowed, and some are not. Let the public and the media houses know in advance, please.