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Horse racing not dead yet

Published: 
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Dancing Brave
Trainer John O' Brien, left, is all smiles in the Winners Circle with owner of King Roman, Mohali, second from right, and the connections after winning Race 6 for Handicap 3 Y.0. & Over Horses rated 60-45 on January 2 at Santa Rosa Park, Arima. Photo: RALPH BANWARIE..

While the horse racing industry in T&T may be on the ropes, it's not dead yet and it might prove to be a folly for anyone to write the industry off, given the interest shown on both Boxing day and New Year's Day.

From an economy perspective, this is not the first time that the racing industry has had to weather tough economic circumstances and unfortunately, neither will it be the last time.

On the last occasion, in the mid 1980s, the twin island was trying to support four racing tracks and they all survived through to the decision to centralise in the early 1990s and a fire in Tobago.

Nor is T&T the only economy (with a horse racing industry) that is experiencing or has experienced difficult economic circumstances. Jamaica has been experiencing one of its worst economic environments over the last three to four years including having to return to the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Barbados’ economy continues to defy expectations and fend off all requests that they either go to the IMF or devalue their currency. Both the racing industry in Jamaica and Barbados continue to move on. Why should T&T be any different?

T&T is no different so what is required is all hands on deck for what is expected to be a tough but not impossible fight for the survival of an industry that has survived worst.

When we consider the thousands of dollars that would have been spent in fireworks during the long weekend recently concluded, there is little doubt that there remains adequate funds in circulation to support a successful industry. When we consider the continued high demand for foreign exchange from the official and unofficial foreign exchange cambios, there is little doubt that there remains adequate funds in circulation to support a successful industry. When we consider that many of the top owners in this country remain gentlemen and ladies of some influence in political, economic and business circles in this country, there is little doubt that there remains access to adequate funds to support a successful industry.

The real issue is why all of these highly resourceful individuals are not channelling their energies and influence to ensure the survival of the industry.

The reason seems obvious and it has to do with the administration of the sport. In many respects, the challenges facing the Arima Race Club (ARC) can be likened to the challenges facing the Queens Park Cricket Club (QPCC) and so some might find it ironic that the latter is seeking to channel some resources towards the survival of the former with the QPCC hosting a Day at the Races on January 14, for the first time in a very long while, if ever.

There are reports of an attempt to implement a parallel management committee but this cannot work. Only one committee can run any sport at a time and as such, there needs to be maturity in the approach taken, going forward. The current management committee of the ARC needs to voluntarily delegate their authority to the interim committee and let us see what they can do.

A look at the management committee does not indicate who, in that committee, can command the respect of either the politicians or the business community, whose support (or at the very least, no opposition) is required. The process of the election of a management committee should reveal to all the frailties of the system since it is almost always difficult to forge a quorum and there is generally only a handful of members present at any meeting. This suggest more apathy from members than support for the current executive. A mature decision to step aside will therefore not generate any complaints from the membership.

Decisions currently being taken by the management committee suggest that they are limited in the art of dealing with difficult circumstances and for some this position of authority is too much – reducing the number of racing days, cutting prize money, curtailing the flow of information to the betting public (by terminating the racing previews conducted by Dave Lamy and Gary Camejo) and poor maintenance of the track and its environment are all remnants of a dated and long discredited recession management approach.

On the contrary, since those measures are likely to reduce interest in the sport at a time when that interest is most needed, the better approach would be to look at more back office measures and innovative ways to create sponsorship interest in the sport. All of which is enough for the opportunity to be taken to give someone else a chance to make a difference to the survival of the sport because survive it most definitely will.