The family tradition in Jamaica’s horse racing

Charles Hussey
Charles Hussey

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Horse racing, by its very nature as a sport/business, has created a tradition which facilitates the involvement of families at the level of owners, trainers and jockeys.

This is generally true globally but particularly so in the major European racing jurisdictions of Great Britain, Ireland, France and Italy where many sons matriculate to be great conditioners and jockeys after apprenticeship with their fathers.

For examples of this phenomenon please access the Wikipedia platform and search for “fathers who inspired their sons to big success in racing and “famous horse racing families”. As a matter of fact, there are a few who enjoyed even greater success than their mentors.

Speaking of horse racing families, in Jamaica the three most prominent families in relatively recent history are the Todds, the Husseys and the Nuneses.

Trainer L C Todd, passed the mantle to son Richard, who was a constant top-ten performer and is still active, and now on to grandson Steven who has had in excess of 200 successes. Incidentally, Monica, late matriarch of the Todd family, was also a successful owner.

Ruth, matriarch of the Hussey generation and widow of successful trainer Laurie, won the owners title, elder son Charlie has been champion jockey, and the younger son Percy had frequent training successes in many major stakes races.

Andrew Nunes won the 1993 Premier Classic with Restless Babe and has gone on to win a trainer's championship in Barbados where he is still a practitioner. Brother Anthony, in addition to emulating the feat of their dad Nigel, who was champion in 1976, with Anthony becoming champion in 2019 and 2020. Anthony is the current leader and on track for a third-consecutive crown in 2021.

In addition to matriarch Hillis Nunes, who has enjoyed success in top-class races as an owner especially with Hot Line, the men of the Nunes family have won the Jamaica Derby on seven occasions. Nigel won in 1972 with Balladier, in addition to the aforementioned 1993 success of Andrew. Incredibly, Anthony won the other five in the last 22 years, with Terremoto (1998), Technomoto (2011), Relampago (2014), Orpheus (2016) and 2019 Triple Crown champion Supreme Soul as the proverbial icing on the cake. Further, Nigel's grandson and nephew of Anthony and Andrew, Nigel Burke is also a trainer of thoroughbreds.

In terms of being most recognisable, second generation conditioners like Bunny, son of G A “Sarge” Bucknor, won the 1991 derby with the wonderful filly Poor Little Rich Girl who went on to place third in the Caribbean Classic. Bunny should also be included in the list of top performers in this category. Incidentally his brother Gregory was also a winning trainer and owner.

As things stand, the twelve most visible practising second generation trainers are namely: Anthony Nunes, Gary Subratie, Ian Parsard, Jason DaCosta, Steven Todd, Ryan Darby and Robert Pearson – all in the current list of top ten trainers up to and including May 22, 2021. The other five are Michael Marlowe, Gresford Smith, Errol Waugh, Barrington Dawes and unusually, Wayne Parchment, whose mother is the trainer in the family.

Interestingly, of the 317 races staged from New Year's Day to May 22, 2021, these gentlemen have won a total of 151 and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

It is abundantly clear that in addition to the formal training in the Jamaica Racing Commission trainers' course having a parent as a mentor is a distinct and added advantage.

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