Grooms ready for reopening of local racing

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Fabian White

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Despite having the difficult task to manage over 500 racehorse grooms, president Fabian White says his association is well-equipped to deal with all protocols for a smooth return of live thoroughbred racing at Caymanas Park.

Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), the sole promoter of local horse racing, had recently issued a three-race day projection to coincide with the return of races at Caymanas Park.

Since the Government has relaxed curfew hours and has planned a reopening of the economy, it is anticipated that horse racing will restart on June 13.

“We are preparing very well for the return of racing at Caymanas Park. We are trying to be on our best behaviour in wearing masks and using sanitisers and so forth. I have issued sanitisers to most of them [the grooms] as I am trying to get to all of them but, as you know, there are plenty of grooms here at Caymanas Park,” White said.

It would be a very difficult task for grooms to maintain social distancing given the fact that there are more than 10 of them working or just having playing time at stables, but White said there are rules which all grooms must follow.

“I agree; it is going to be difficult with the social distancing for grooms. If you check the statistics there are over 500 grooms on the compound, licensed and unlicensed, and you have trainers, jockeys and all types of people working, but yet still we are COVID-19-free and so that must tell you something, that we are doing something good.

“Well, all over people do that still [play games at workplace], but as long as you have on your mask and you sanitise, I don’t have a problem with that – but we are not practising the crowd thing though. A couple of grooms can play a game of dominoes, yes, but not with the gathering thing, as we are in it to protect ourselves and others,” White explained.

He added: “When leading out horses on race days, sometimes you will have more than 10 horses in a race; the grooms must at all times have on their masks and be at a certain distance from each other. Regular sanitising must be practised as well.”

Live thoroughbred racing was halted on March 22 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then the racing industry has been struggling to stay in the race, similar to other areas of enterprise in the country.

“Not only the industry is suffering, but the grooms are suffering as well. Our weekly pay that we are getting for one horse can’t cut it, as we also depend on racing to earn some more money. Horse racing is what keeps the industry alive and we hope for it to return soon. The coronavirus had really hit Jamaica hard but we have to do what [we] got to do to get things running again. We are just hoping for a restart to racing,” said White.