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TTRA needs to fix framing system

Published: 
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

As we move into a new racing season in a few days, horse racing stands at a critical place in which all stakeholders now have to truly rally together if the sport is to survive. Paramount in achieving this objective is for those involved in key aspects of the sports’ administration to engage and listen to the views of those essential to its survival.

One of the starting places is the framing of races. A review of the races framed for January 2018 suggest that the framers of local racing continue to adopt a myopic view, which unless changed immediately, could drive owners out of the sport.

Every owner should have at least one race per month in which their horse can compete over its optimal surface and distance. That is a basic principle, which the framers of races in this country seem reluctant to adopt.

This becomes particularly evident as you move higher in the rating bands and/or own a horse with a preference for a turf surface. The Arima Race Club (ARC) needs to show more leadership on this issue, but it can only do this with the support of all involved including the T&T Racing Authority (TTRA) and the Betting Levy Board (BLB), the trainers, the owners, the jockeys and the grooms.

The next area for immediate attention is the handicapping system. The system is clearly flawed and has been flawed for far too long. We cannot continue doing the same thing and expect different results.

Consistency is critical and there is an overall lack of confidence in the handicapping, of which a few examples follow, Rocket Wheels (then rated 69) was a nice winner of a 70 to 55 event on turf with her rider claiming 3kg. The 3kg claim meant that she raced off a level of 63. She won by three lengths beating Saint Honey (rated 59).

If Saint Honey ran to her level, then Rocket Wheels only ran to her original rating to win. Inexplicably, she was still raised 10 points to 79 and is now the second highest rated three-year-old in the country, even though she was never able to finish higher than fourth in any of the West Indian bred three-year-old events.

If that is not strange enough, Jamaican bred two-year-old General JN has been introduced into the ratings at the level of 68! Two points lower than then imported two-year-old maiden Trini Aviator.

Enough has to be enough with these handicappers and when one considers that an overseas Irish advisor ratifies these changes, one can only be left bemused by it all. Something has to change next year, if not there will be further erosion in the state of horse racing. It is also suspicious when the foreign-based handicappers cannot answer questions from the racing industry.

The introduction of the MBet is a welcome development and a sign that the ARC is finally moving with the times. The MBet, along with the streaming of local racing promises to open up new markets to the ARC.

These markets are not only in T&T and the ARC now needs to determine how it can broaden the interest in the sport abroad.

They need to start with the Trinbago diaspora in North America and Europe and maybe even tackle the wider Caribbean market. We need product though and this is where the first two points become very important. Competitive racing will encourage more betting turnover locally and abroad. Let’s get these changes implemented and use this year as a turnaround year for the sport. On the advertising and sponsor front, it is hoped that previous recommendations re sponsorship of individual races by firms and individuals for relatively small amounts plus a trophy is implemented from the first racing day of the year. Memorial and company sponsored races will also bring those individuals, their employees, their friends and their family to the track and therefore maybe also open up the sport to new fans. No stone can be left unturned.

Time to get going.

However, we must ensure that efforts are made to unite, where there is clear division, and that those who love horse racing continue to put that first over personal goals. Horse racing started the Lottery system in this country, and when it was taken away by the powers that be, there was a promise that horse racing would be the greatest benefactor; unfortunately that has not been the case.

Onwards to a brighter future, and where there is a will, there is a way.