Stakeholders say racing must go on

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Stakeholders at the meeting yesterday at Caymanas Park.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The race meetings for Saturday (March 21) and Sunday are to go ahead as planned after the racing stakeholders met at Caymanas Park yesterday. Nominations for the Sunday card takes place today with scratch time taking place shortly after.

Present at the meeting were representatives of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission (BGLC) led by executive director, Vitus Evans, the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) with General Manager Richard Longmore at the helm, the promoting company through Chairman Solomon Sharpe, and the presidents of the various professional associations.

Ryan Darby, president of the United Racehorse Trainers’ Association, said he was pleased with the outcome of the deliberations.

“The meeting was straightforward. We discussed what took place on Tuesday last when we had races without any spectators at the track and the performance of the promoting company, Supreme Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), in providing the health measures specified by the Government for the control of the coronavirus.

“We were all in agreement that SVREL met and even surpassed these health requirements.

“As to the race meets for Saturday and Sunday, SVREL is to be given a lot of credit, and frankly, I am just elated that the horses will run,” Darby stated.

The trainers’ president then gave reasons why it is crucial for racing to continue.

“Racing is different from all other sporting activity as horses are involved, and we have to keep and care for them every day. Over 1,000 horses are stabled on the Caymanas Park compound, and we have to look after them.

“The churn of money brought about by having races has to continue so that owners can earn, for trainers and grooms to get paid, and only then can proper care be guaranteed for the horses.

“As president, I will personally speak to members and emphasise to them the utmost need to follow the health instructions as given by SVREL based on the advice of the Government,” Darby promised.

Vitus Evans, the executive director of the BGLC, informed that inspectors would be out along with members of the promoting company to monitor the operations of the Off Track Betting (OTBs) parlours in the island.

“The primary concern for us at the BGLC are the OTBs.

“They are all our licencees, and as such, we are going to make sure that along with the other stakeholders that they all comply with the health safety regulations as put out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“This monitoring will take place over the two designated race days to ensure compliance of the social distancing requirements and also the 20 people limit per establishment.

“We are making contact with the OTB operators, to make sure the process is smooth,” Evans said.

President of the Owners’ Association, Laurence Heffes, told this publication that while robust representation was made on behalf of his grouping to be present in designated areas at the track on the two race days — that request was not accepted.

“We put forward ways that owners’ participation could be done and discussed the matter at length, but in the end, the decision was taken.

“We understand and accept this decision in the national interest at this time with COVID-19 present in the country. It is too much of a risk to increase the numbers, and we will comply,” Heffes said.