SPORTS: DANCING BRAVE COLUMN FOR WEDNESDAY 17TH APRIL, 2013trinidad guardian
-------------Time to Couple -------------
Over the years, there have been numerous calls for the racing industry to clean up its act – all of which has gone unheeded. Those in authority continue to turn a blind eye to wrongs which are so obvious that even Stevie Wonder could see them clearly. Once again, following the events of Race day 13, the calls for greater transparency will only be renewed.
The horse population in Trinidad is fairly small and the pool of trainers even smaller. For this reason, in the past, when calls have been made for the authorities to consider some form of coupling for horses trained or owned by the same individuals in one race, these calls have fallen on deaf ears. If ever there was a need for action in this regard, the outcome of a race in which two horses trained by one individual went off at 6/5 and 19/1 with the winner being the longer shot animal, should trigger a response. The stewards did call the trainer in for an explanation for the improved performance of the winner who had not won a cent in any of his previous starts. While it is difficult to prove nefarious behaviour, to avoid all suspicion, coupling of runners trained/owned by the same individual should be re-examined. Even if coupling of horses trained by one individual is not practical, coupling of horses owned by one individual should be urgently considered.
Another area requiring early attention is the recent spate of doping incidents. There is no racing authority so none of the recent cases can be heard as yet but it is very alarming that for the current racing year, we have had four cases of winners returning positive samples after only 13 racing days. Surely the racing authorities are not sending a message to the racing public that anything goes at the moment. The spate of incidents is a bit strange and while it might be merely coincidental that we have had this high incidence of positive samples, again, we could avoid all suspicions, etc., if the proper authorities were in place to quickly dispense justice in all such cases.
The Arima Race Club has also seemingly decided to reduce the number of tellers available on normal race days, seeking to only bring out a full complement on the “big” days – sponsored days, public holidays. While this is a sensible approach, it is not immediately obvious what sort of analysis was undertaken to determine what the basic teller complement should be. The reality of gambling is that most punters wait until the horses are on their way down to the start to make their bets on a particular race. The result is that with the reduced complement, there is almost always now a long line for bets to be placed as the horses start to load into the stalls. While i have not monitored to determine how many bettors are eventually turned away because of the start of the race, it seems likely given the length of the lines that one or two punters must have failed to get in their bets. Maybe the ARC should consider pooling all of their available tellers in one common area on each level, so that you do not have the situation of tellers in some areas being free while there are punters lined up elsewhere failing to place their bets.
The final area i would like to comment on is the ARC’s stated no-smoking policy. This policy was introduced some time last year in keeping with the international/local push to reduce the incidence of second hand smoke. In spite of this policy, and various signs to this effect, racegoers continue to smoke on all levels with impunity. The issue of course is enforcement since there is absolutely no enforcement of any of the policies implemented/proposed by the Club. The level of indiscipline in this regard is unfortunate and it can only be hoped that the Club will do something more to enforce its own rules and regulations.
One of the ways forward would be for the Arima Race Club to put proper actions in place to maintain the surface, at the moment; it is quite bad with many owners and trainers complaining. This is an area that needs full time maintenance and overview and not part time management.
In closing, i would like to extend my condolences to the family of Dave Gaff, who lost his battle with cancer last week Friday. Gaff was one of the more popular riders around owing to his very affable personality and while his success as a rider was somewhat limited, the success of a man really lies more in the impact he has on those who he left behind. With that as criteria, Gaff could have been considered more successful than many other riders on the local circuit today. One horse that will forever be associated with him is ForTheLoveofit – who must have qualified as his favourite horse. Gaff won quite a few races for Dr. Ryan Shim on this animal and the horse’s name is probably apropos for Gaff’s involvement in the sport. May his soul rest in peace.