The fifth and final nomination for the Trinidad Derby takes place today and if, as expected, all 10 horses hold their ground, then a total of $38,280 would have been paid in subscriptions during the five nomination stages. Five nomination stages spread over less than six weeks.
Interestingly, the third nomination stage for the Diamond Stakes also takes place today and in this case, if the nine horses who paid the second nomination hold their ground, a total of just over $11,500 would have been paid over the three weeks of nominations.
What is interesting about these nomination events and the amounts paid by connections of these horses is that, notwithstanding the nomination and payment of subscriptions, connections of the successful horses should not expect to receive any payment until next year.
It is no secret that the Arima Race Club (ARC) continues to owe horsemen considerable sums, with winning connections only having received their payments for races run-up to late January 2019. This means that over seven months of winnings are owed to horsemen, notwithstanding the receipt of nomination fees for past races in the Classic Diary as well as payments from the Betting Levy Board (BLB), albeit at reduced levels.
This is reminiscent of what happens when an organisation is running consistent losses and as such, all money received is being directed to fund deficits. Against a backdrop of deficits, it can only be expected that the ARC will seek to conserve/reduce expenses at every opportunity. It is very difficult to say if that is what they are doing, though reports of possible increased salaries for some employees would tend to go against that trend if true.
So while it has been stated that a group of owners are contacting prominent lawyers to seek relief in the courts for debts (owners' stakes) owed by the ARC and to check if there is any rationale or basis for action against the current directors of the ARC in terms of indemnity, this cannot be good for the sport. Let us hope better sense prevails in this regard.
One of the challenges facing the ARC is the reduced earnings by the BLB from its taxation of the industry in general and the private betting shops in particular. This raises the spectre of inadequate monitoring and measurement of the turnover at the various private betting shops. This issue has plagued the racing industry since centralisation and if anything, has only gotten worse over the years. The rise of private members' clubs has exacerbated the situation.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the turnover at the private betting clubs is considerably understated, if the evidence of attendance at the shops and comparison of BLB tax receipts from the combined private betting shops, compared to the ARC, on days when there are only foreign races (such as Kentucky Derby Day) is to be believed. Surely, in this the 21st Century, there must be scientific and precise ways for the BLB to keep track of the turnover at the private betting shops and by extension, verify that they are receiving accurate payments. This is not rocket science.
Everywhere else in the world where there is a private bookmaking industry, the private bookmakers are the main sponsors of the local horse racing industry, since they recognise the symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, as in many other areas, T&T is an exception to that general rule. Most of the major races in the UK are sponsored by private betting shops and it has been that way from time immemorial. This is separate and apart from their taxes due.
Notwithstanding the many challenges, it is to the credit of the local horse racing community that they continue to support the sport and the ARC. The racing industry employs thousands of individuals but it is not those individuals who keep the sport rolling. To a large extent, it is the owners who continue to pay the bills for the sport even though no return (other than anything earned on gambling) is being received.
There is little doubt that this cannot continue indefinitely but all involved in the sport must be looking forward to something positive being unfolded by the new executive of the ARC. Interestingly, while the local industry is literally on its knees, on nearby St Lucia, they are finalising plans to commence the sport of kings with the backing of powerful Chinese owners. This poses a significant risk to the local racing industry since it opens up new possibilities for owners who might be able to practice their love of the sport on an island much closer to T&T than the current alternative of Jamaica. The prospect of St Lucia as an alternative to T&T is real and those responsible for the local industry must recognise it and adopt actions required retaining the sport in this country.
While the love of the sport remains, it is the money that will keep the sport around. Hopefully, they realise that before it is too late.