Last update: 12-Dec-2013 1:27 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
Followers of horse racing in T&T can be forgiven for thinking that, like local politics, horse racing makes for strange bedfellows and even that maybe horse racing in Trinidad has a morality of its own. The new T&T Racing Authority (TTRA) has been making efforts to clear up the backlog of matters that arose during its absence but it seems that various unknown forces are preventing them from completing their duties. Hopefully, the remaining cases of alleged doping infractions will be resolved shortly. What is of more concern however is the continued and growing allegation of blatant bribery and corruption in the sport. It seems as though the “Sport of Kings” in Trinidad is rapidly descending into the realm of being the “Sport of Thugs.” Alliances are springing up between individuals whose only interest is corrupting the morals of the sport. These individuals seem hell bent on influencing the outcome of specific races, not through guile and cunning or the clever placement of their horses but through naked intimidation and obscene use of cash.
Gone seem to be the days when a trainer and/or owner would lay out a particular horse for an event, carefully husbanding the horse’s handicap rating (or classification in days gone by) to pull off a betting coup. This required more skill and patience than today’s younger generation seem willing to expend. Of course, in days gone by, you had many an infamous race but that was more the exception than the rule. Or at least, it was not very obvious to the average turfite. The situation is the complete reverse at present. Natural justice dictates that people be proven guilty before they are convicted but in order to do so, the system to detect and prove need to be put in place. It is, for the absence of the latter, that those in authorities would have to bear significant blame. Why is there still no investigative unit of the TTRA? Why is there no whistle-blower infrastructure for anonymous complaints to be made? Why is there no action taken against warned-off trainers who continue to ply their trade from nearby premises? These are just some of the questions that the relevant authorities will have to answer when they are eventually called to account.
The Arima Race Club (ARC) board needs to ask themselves what is their vision for the sport. Are they happy with its current direction-less state? The main issues that they need to address are the quality of the race framing, the quality of the race-stewarding and the quality of the handicapping. These are the three issues that can determine the fate of the horse racing in Trinidad.
At the moment, the framers of horse racing have given in to the dark side and are framing races primarily for the lower class horses in Trinidad. It remains a regular feature that races for horses rated 100 or higher are cancelled while there are at least four races for horses rated 45 and lower. Interestingly, this is probably the only country in which a minimum rating is used when framing races so that races are framed for horses rated 55 to 40 as opposed to horses rated 55 and lower. The reason for this approach is not clear and should be reconsidered. The framers then need to become creative in their race framing, for example, races for horses who have never placed in the first four; races for horses who have not won more than a certain amount of money; and more races for the top class horses over intermediate distances like 1,350 metres.
Then we have the quality of the race-stewarding. It was quite notable on Toyota Day at the Races that the majority of the stewards were fairly inexperienced. While this is normally transparent to turfites, it could have dramatic implications as it did on that day for the connections of Zorro. There is no doubt that Zorro closed down on Lady Marisa who in turn drifted in towards Classic Material, whose rider appeared to have to ease momentarily. Classic Material was however one pacing at the time and there was subsequently enough time for the mare to re-gather herself and move forward. The fact that both Thisisit (who passed both Classic Material and Lady Marisa) on their insides and Super Sonic who flew past both on their outside were the only ones to close down the leader/winner Zorro, who was eventually disqualified, speaks volumes for the poor decision that was taken. More experienced stewards might have yielded a different result but even if not, there may have been more confidence in the stewards’ decision making.
The final point is the quality of the handicapping. The guidelines governing the handicapping of horses in this country are as clear as mud and this is not good for a nascent system. In fact, it seems there is very limited movement of horses other than winners. Additionally, there seems no attempt at collateral movement of horses based on back form with horses who have been moved in either direction. For a handicapping system to work, it needs to be more responsive to what is taking place on the track. If only winners and one or two defeated horses are adjusted, the system is certain to be stunted. Until tangible changes and improvements are made, we just appear to be on a merry-go-round in this country, without the cheer.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.