Sometimes a name or incident helps jog a personal memory, such as seeing Bradley Wiggins, the British cyclist, leading the Tour de France field after eleven stages of medieval torture. Another Wiggins descendant of Adam and Eve has long etched his name into my ageing brain, whose story took place in 1964 when various local agents imported race horses from England and Ireland on a regular basis. One such agent was Reggie Williams and another, a Mr Wiggins—first name unknown. News reached me that a bunch of horses, including a filly named Panorelic, was on their way to T&T, and anyone interested in purchasing was to contact Mr Wiggins which I did. He gave me three progress reports confirming the boat had not sunk nor had Panorelic jumped overboard, and the morning the horses arrived, phoned to make arrangements to meet. Bear in mind that I had recently returned from University in Canada, was a close friend of Chris Krogh who encouraged me to buy a share in every horse he saw and convinced me that Panorelic’s breeding had never been surpassed. I could not wait to be part of horse racing’s elite!
Hilton Hotel had recently opened and I thought I would definitely impress Mr Wiggins with international contacts, by suggesting we meet poolside at 8 pm. I dressed in a suit and posed near the pool feeling like Aga Khan. Time passed by and soon I was the only human being in the pool area except for a man in a short pants, dirty tall boots and a felt hat which had seen better days, who passed by occasionally. I was feeling very aggrieved that I had been stood up, when the man came to me and “arksed:” “Mister, you know a man call Henderson?” When I admitted to being him, my boy flung out a muddy hand and said: “I is Wiggins. Ah just come from de animals.” How I did not fall in the pool from shock I will never know. Talk about a let down! At the end of our short meeting I did not buy Panorelic as I was told that William Scott was prepared to pay “what it takes”, and who was I to compete? Two years later William did sell Panorelic to me as a broodmare and I named her first foal Easy Street, probably the least-talented horse ever to run—but that is another story!
Actually, after that Hilton meeting, Mr Wiggins and I became good friends and in his memory, I say “Go Bradley Wiggins—my money is on you to win the Tour de France. Just ride faster than Easy Street could run.” Actually, along the way someone did name a horse “Mr Wiggins” presumably after my friend.
Bringing Jetsam to the people
The long-awaited 2011 Jetsam Awards function is now scheduled for August 11, 2012 to be staged in the forecourt of Santa Rosa Park and unfortunately I will be out of the country on that day. Traditionally, Jetsam Awards has been a high-profile gala event with everyone dressed to kill. In the earliest days—1989/90/91—I organised the event at Country Club along with Derek Cozier and all present had an enjoyable time. Then Country Club was deemed not suitable enough and we moved to Hilton Hotel. I was still involved in organising the function, but my rebellious voice was often raised objecting to the fact that the committee had to run themselves ragged to beg for financial support from sponsors, while every Jack and Jacqueline who were filthy rich, received complimentary tickets. Many members and owners openly refused to attend if they had to pay and I will call names if there is a Commission of Enquiry after CLICO/HCU. From approximately 1993 to 1996 there was a recognised official Jetsam Awards committee with the likes of John O’Brien, the late Joanne Boodoosingh, Lisa Ghany, Leisel da Silva, Selwyn Raymond, myself and two or three others which met often in the six months before the event, and every detail was approved and implemented within given deadlines.
I like to think we worked like a well-oiled machine even though I still kicked hell about the “freebees” given to millionaires. One of our key goals was to ensure that the function was held in February or March to emphasise the point that the awards reflected top performances in the previous January to December timeframe. This is why having the upcoming Jetsam Awards in August, is total rubbish, since we have long forgotten and probably could not care less, who did what in 2011. We know the reason. Imagine that in February I agreed to be a panel member to select the various category winners on a confidential basis, duly completed the form with my selections and submitted it to be sent to external auditors. Last week, out of the blue, I received a new form to complete the same exercise with two name changes. Now tell me! I accept I am being publicly critical but someone has to have the guts to point out the folly of such a delay and explain, if an explanation is needed, that such an extraordinary decision further challenges racing’s credibility which challenge we can do without.
I am sick and tired of seeing simple basic successful practices of yesteryear degenerating before our eyes with nary a complaint heard. For example, for nearly 20 years I organised sponsored coats for grooms in the parade ring and had them laundered every week mainly because in the early years, it was thought that one would catch AIDS if one wore another’s coat. Now grooms wear what they want even on Caribbean Nations Raceday last year. Last Saturday the first race started ten minutes late. Lack of quality has become the norm. Sorry, but that’s how I see it. Having written the above, I am not at all upset, as are so many others, that the function will be held in front the grandstand and not at a leading hotel.
The reason is simple, as apart from obvious cost saving, about six years ago, we were forced (for lack of funds) to use the same forecourt venue and it was very well received. Why? Because the hundreds or thousands of everyday race fans who could not afford to pay for a Hilton ticket in the past, were able to witness all the winners in person as they received their trophies. The function was brought to the people that keep racing going and they really appreciated the gesture.
Walking the walk—the Ganga way
Sunday July 08 was a lovely day for 30 Daren Ganga Foundation scholarship winners, when Mrs Rehana Hassanali, wife of the Petrotrin President, organised a tour of Wild Fowl Trust in Pointe-a-Pierre, followed by a delicious buffet lunch at the Staff Club. However, the lunch was used as a practical application of basic table etiquette, and Mrs Hassanali showed all “guests” how men should help ladies take their seats, how to lay out and use a napkin and the various cutlery items, the need to say “thank you” for every little bit of assistance, and to understand the meaning of a four-course meal as the boys and girls (11-14 years old) enjoyed soup, then salad, the main course and finally dessert, most of them for the first time in their lives. It was fascinating to watch the different reactions to her instructions of how to hold a fork or whatever. As is par for the course with anything to do with the Foundation, all three Ganga brothers, Sheldon, Daren and Sherwin were present on the Wildfowl tour, and served food, soft drinks, ice and cleared dishes at the luncheon.
The Gangas understand what it means to walk the walk and get their hands dirty in every Guidance Day project, leading and encouraging by personal example and linking their own personal experiences with what the youngsters are being taught. It is always so uplifting to see high profile individuals exhibiting genuine humility by performing the most menial of tasks to communicate a point to an audience and make each feel special and important. One boy told me: “Imagine Sherwin Ganga pouring a drink for me and getting ice while I sat down at table!” What a beautiful and well-deserved compliment! On my way home from the Guidance Day, I thanked God for the opportunity to be a small part of Daren’s Foundation and for wonderful, generous, magnificent people like Rehana Hassanali and countless others who understand the true meaning of giving of oneself to others and doing so with grace and a heart overflowing with love.
Challenges of a sports columnist
The big disadvantage of being the sports columnist who is given the Monday to publish is that he/she has to submit the material by Friday afternoon which means that everything has already happened or will happen on the weekend and is no longer news. If Roger Federer threw his Wimbledon trophy into the river Thames on Sunday afternoon, the whole world will know about it long before (if?) they read my Monday article. Often the only option is to look into the future, make a prediction and risk being thought an idiot when you are proven wrong. Will Tiger Woods win the upcoming British Open, for example?
Had I written earlier on the Windies/New Zealand third ODI, I would have opined that NZ was probably the worst team on the planet and not worth watching, and the top six in the WI batting order was as good as any other team. Whew! That was a close one!