The 2022 racing season kicks off on January 8, rather than the traditional January 1, New Year’s Day card. Given the state of racehorses in the country at present, this represented a very wise decision on the part of racing’s administrators. We can only hope that as the 2022 racing season unfolds, equally pragmatic solutions will be employed to address the many challenges which are certain to confront the industry. As the 2021 racing year ended, there was a minor kerfuffle around jockey riding arrangements for a few horses owned by a prominent racing owner. Without delving into the merits of the arguments, the racing administrators would be well served by always appearing to be transparent and consistent in their decision making. In the cases under dispute, that transparency and consistency appear lacking. Racing can ill afford to lose any more of our committed owners and one can only hope that the administrators can arrive at an amicable solution to this matter with the individuals concerned.
On the racing front, the John O’Brien stables were once again the dominant force in 2021 winning all of the major titles at stake except the Horse of the Year title. O’Brien himself will no doubt be crowned Champion Trainer in terms of wins and prize money; his stable jockey Brian Boodramsingh will take the Champion Jockey Title; his three-year-old colt, Stroke of Luck, by winning the Trinidad Derby will be the Champion Three Year Old colt and overall; his three-year-old filly, Soca Symphony is likely to be the Champion Three Year Old filly (though could be challenged for that spot by Patta Patta); his two-year-old colt, Crown Prince, will be the Champion Two-Year-Old Colt and overall; if there is a Champion Two-Year-Old filly, it will likely be Soca Harmony; and the Champion Owner title will go down to a cash count with either of Dave Chadee, Shivam Maharaj or Raroma Stables securing that award. For the all-important Horse of the Year title, it will no doubt be awarded to Shivam Maharaj’s Affirmative following this horse’s completion of the Stewards Cup / Gold Cup double to end the 2021 racing season with a record of 4 wins and 2 seconds from 6 starts with the two losses coming when handing out 6.5kg and 8kg respectively to Signal Note and Wise Guy, two quality horses in their own right. In a year with only 13 race days, all will no doubt be hoping for better in 2022.
<General JN primed for Sian's Gold sprint>
The 2022 Racing Season begins with the traditional curtain opener of the Sian’s Gold sprint over 1,100 metres on the turf. With most of the racing having to be taken off the turf on Boxing Day and the continued incessant rain since then, likely, all races will once again have to be taken off the turf in the best interest of the horses and their riders.
In a not very competitive race, whether it is run on the turf or the main track, the horse to beat will be Glenn Mendez’ General JN. This seven-year-old horse has danced every dance and almost always turns up with his game face on. He has comprehensively proven, time and time again, that distances beyond 1,800 metres are not his forte (failing to fire once again in the Gold Cup on Boxing Day) but has also proven time and time again that he stands up well to his racing as witnessed by his winning of the 2021 Sian’s Gold after competing in the 2020 Gold Cup. He should be tough for his rivals once again with the main interest being in who would chase him home and that will be largely influenced by the surface. On the main track, it would be either his stable companion Signal Note or Super Bird (who went off the boil towards the end of 2021); on the turf, it would be much closer with most of his six rivals having some sort of chance.
As look ahead to the full 2022 racing season, if all the scheduled race days can be completed, that would be the first step in the revitalization of the sport. The much-publicized alliance with the racing administrators in Jamaica and Barbados offers some hope for increased betting turnover which can provide another lifeline to the local sport. Some other incentives are required to support the breeding industry however because this is the lifeblood of the sport in any country and hopefully, conversations and proactive solutions can be employed as the year unfolds. Happy New Year to all readers!