As the racing community prepares to celebrate 60 years of horse racing at Caymanas Park on Saturday next (August 24), The Supreme Racing Guide reminds readers some of the records and milestones achieved at the home of racing in Jamaica.
FIRST WINNER - On Saturday, August 22, 1959, the first race was run at Caymanas Park over six furlongs (1,200 metres). The winner was Roman Road ridden by Barrington Smith and trained by Owen Silvera. Queen of Sheba with the legendary Arthur Jones in the saddle finished second.
THE JOCKEY’S DEAD HEAT - In 1970 for the first and only time up to now there was a dead-heat involving two jockeys, Panamanian Jose Bravo and Richard DePass for the jockeys’ championship. Bravo and DePass finished with 53 wins each but for DePass getting to that magical number was particularly difficult. In the very last race of the year on Boxing Day, 1970, DePass was one behind Bravo. Riding the Eileen Cliggott-trained Wally Gold as if everything in his life depended on winning, DePass held on desperately from the fast-finishing favourite High Dish with Don McKenzie in the saddle in the 7 ½ furlongs event, eventually holding on by a short head.
THE ONLY CLASSIC RACE WALK OVER - After winning the Jamaica Derby in 1971, the elegantly bred Reprieve (Zaleucus – Caroline Park) trained by Aston Cammock and owned by the at the time well-known owning pair of Dr Victor Magnus and J W ‘Judge’ Hardie was considered a cinch to win the final Classic of the year, the Jamaica St Leger.
What happened next has become part of the glorious history of Caymanas Park. There were no rivals in the St Leger for Repreive to run against as all six of the six probably starters were absent – scratched. Based then on the applicable Rule of Racing, Reprieve had to complete five furlongs to claim the purse of the St Leger. Coming down the five-straight course, Reprieve and DePass did what the rule required and became a double Classic race winner. There has not been a Classic walkover since then.
LONGEST PERIOD WITHOUT RACING - There were several times that racing at Caymanas Park had to be halted over the 60 years of its storied existence. Some of these shutdowns were due to the forces of nature while others were man-made. September 12, 1988, brought Hurricane Gilbert to the shores of Jamaica and with it came untold devastation that affected all the country. Caymanas Park felt the force of Gilbert causing racing to be shut down for just over two months. Then there was the equine virus outbreak close to the end of the racing year in 1989. Racing was under siege as evidenced by a shut down of close to three months. But the longest period that no races were run at Caymanas Park came in 1973 when one of the poles that supported the cantilever roof of the stands gave way with urging from what was described then as a freak storm. Racing because of this structural failure was suspended for three-and-a-half months, which is the longest period racing at Caymanas Park has been absent.
JOCKEY KENNETH MATTIS – TRAINER KENNETH MATTIS - Kenneth Mattis during his time in the saddle was regarded as one of racing’s top heavyweight jockey and his association with the great None Such has reached legendary status. Mattis then shifted from the pigskin to become a trainer and in the latter field, he was even more successful. “Kiddie” as he was popularly known was associated with several outstanding thoroughbreds but none more so than Legal Light regarded by most as the greatest to have ever placed his hoofs on the track at Caymanas Park and, of course, Royal Dad. Mattis is the only horseman to be inducted twice into Jamaica’s Hall of Fame of thoroughbred racing first as a jockey and as a trainer. Mattis now deceased has a race named in his honour.
THE GREATEST RIDING FEAT AT CAYMANAS - Saturday, November 20, 1993, will forever be etched in the glorified annals of local horse racing. It was the race day that jockey Andrew “Narry” Ramgeet won eight races to become the only rider to achieve this amazing feat up to this day. Ramgeet had 10 rides on the November 20 card and proceeded to win on Azari, Beau Saint, She’s On Wheels, Keino, Birthday Boy, Little Dragon, Foregone Conclusion and Royal Gator. Interestingly, Ramgeet on his other two mounts, finished second and third. Many pundits believe that Ramgeet’s accomplishment is the greatest ever at Caymanas Park.
TREVOR SIMPSON’S RECORD-BREAKING YEAR - Jockey Trevor “Slicer” Simpson, a former many times champion rider known for his swashbuckling style of riding and his titanic battles with Joseph Buchanan got into the history books in 2002 by riding the most winners in a single season by any jockey in Jamaica. Simpson was atop 172 winners thereby overturning the previous mark of 167 established 28 years before by George HoSang. Simpson achieved his record feat from 571 rides.
AZEL COWIE – FIRST WOMAN TO WIN AT CAYMANAS PARK - An apprentice in 1992 under the watchful eyes of her apprentice master, the late trainer Eileen Cliggott, Azel Cowie became the first female jockey to ride a winner at an official race meet at Caymanas Park. Cowie created her special piece of history on January 25, 1992, on the Cliggott trainer Heartease in a 6 ½ furlong contest. Cowie went on to win 14 more races from approximately 290 rides in what turned out to be a brief career.