KINGSTON, Jamaica – The association representing grooms in the horse racing industry is calling on the Government for help after Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) last week announced a scaling down of operations at Caymanas Park due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We need to get something from the Government. We need the intervention of the Government,” Grooms’ Association of Jamaica President Fabian White told the Jamaica Observer.
“When I was in Canada at the Woodbine racetrack I see where the Government help the racetrack, and so we are calling on the Government here to do the same,” he said.
White said he recognises that the Government is busy trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus, but he would like the association at the table in any discussion regarding assistance between the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission and the Government.
“We need a stimulus. I mean, every other sporting event is getting it, then why not racing?” he asked.
“Football got help, athletics got help, and so what, racing is not a sport? And so I am calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke; state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge; and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange for help,” White said.
Effective today, the main racetrack operations will be scaled down to only four days of the week — Monday to Thursday.
In a release, SVREL explained that it had no choice but to scale down operations due to the severe disruptions caused by COVID-19 on the country’s economy, in particular the parish of St Catherine where the racetrack is located.
Racing was last held at Caymanas Park on March 21 before SVREL announced an indefinite lockdown of operations. The race meet that was scheduled for March 22 was not held, however, the racetrack was still being used to house and exercise horses.
SVREL also said for the weeks starting May 11 and May 18, the main racetrack will open for operations on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. And for the week of May 25, the track will be open for operations on Monday and Friday. SVREL also announced layoffs and salary reductions, effective this month.
White said this move by the promoter is killing the industry as other steps could have been taken to avoid the downscaling of operations.
“Racehorse owners are getting frustrated and they are even planning on turning out their horses – and this is not good,” he said. “The usage of the main racetrack is cutting down to four days, then to three days and then to two days, and what that is telling us is that no racing is going to be run for now.
“No one horse can be trained for two, three or four days in preparation for any race. Horses take three to four weeks in preparation for a race and that is a lot of money. I say, let us work together and try and get something from the Government,” he said.
“Let us cut everything else but leave the main racetrack alone. Everybody has to do light training. As you can see, nobody is training for any race right now because there is none. If you left the racetrack open for five days or even six days there will always be hope, and whenever races are on again horses are here ready to compete. Leave the main racetrack and the pool open for the days,” White said.
“Cut the manure, man! Tell him only come two days a week, one day, whatever it is. And for the light bill, let us come together and try and cut the usage of the light. The bulk of the money comes from electricity, which is around $37 million, and we can cut down on that,” he suggested.
“We already have the tractors, water trucks, and the workmen and I don’t think the preparation of the racetrack will cost that much. We understand that the coronavirus is spreading, but what I am saying is let us try and work together,” the groom president added.