Backing the jockeys – new Guild president Robert Halledeen

Robert Halledeen
Robert Halledeen

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Newly elected Jockeys’ Guild of Jamaica president Robert Halledeen says his main aim is to enhance communication between the Guild and its members, while providing a voice for and working for the benefit of the jockeys.

Halledeen, who was elected on December 5 to lead the new executive, after incumbent president Shane Ellis decided not to seek re-election, pointed out that a number of issues and plans have already been placed on the table to both the jockeys and the promoting company, Supreme Ventures and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), in order to pave the way forward.

“The opportunity to lead was there and so I decided to give it a go, we have a number of issues to deal with and I have brought these issues to the members and everyone agrees, so based on those responses and the plans in place, I would say we are off to a positive start,” Halledeen told the Supreme Racing Guide.

“Right now, most of the plans surround upgrading the facilities, I can’t really say much more because we are still in negotiations with Supreme Ventures, so like I said, the most important thing is to get the facility up to standard and then we go from there,” he added.

While he appreciates the work and support of the previous executive, Halledeen, who is well-known for his exploits in the saddle, explained that there is always room for improvement and as such he is taking the necessary steps to ensure the jockeys’ well-being are taken care of.

“Last year ended well when the promoters got racing back up and that was the most important thing for me because the shutdown delivered a big blow to all stakeholders and a lot of people rely on the track and racing for an income. So that was tough for everybody,” said Halledeen, as he reflected on the dramatic setback caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the three-month suspension of racing.

He added: “COVID-19 has changed how we do things these days but I am extremely happy that racing is able to take place so that jockeys and others can earn their living, as the welfare of the jockeys must still be looked after. The plan this year is to improve because there is always room for improvement, I also want to get the jockeys together on one page and get them working with the Jamaica Racing Commission and, get the riders more familiar with the commission rules and what the commission wants from us.”

On a personal note, Halledeen, 31, said he is also hoping to improve his craft and brand as a jockey, following his sixth-place finish in the jockey’s standings last year with 26 winners, including the 2000 Guineas triumph aboard the Gary Subratie-trained Wow Wow.

Halledeen also placed second aboard Subratie’s Another Affair in the 1000 Guineas and the Jamaica Oaks, as well as second in the St Leger with Wow Wow behind stablemate Nipster.

“I intend to continue working hard to be the best that I can be. I am here every morning doing what I need to do and I won’t be going overseas, so the work continues and we will see what happens from there as my aim is to do a lot better this year than I did last year,” the bustling rider, known as “Hardball” to racing fans, ended.

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