HORSERACING A FAVOURITE
Horseracing is one of Jamaica’s most popular sports. It has its home at Caymanas Park in Portmore, St Catherine.
Caymanas Park is located approximately 11 miles west of the city of Kingston. Race meetings are held there every Saturday and most Wednesdays and Public Holidays.
Before going to its present home at Caymanas Park, the racecourse was located at the National Heroes Park in Kingston. However, early in the 20th century it was moved to Knutsford Park.
Knutsford Park Limited was established to promote horseracing in 1904 and controlled the industry for two decades until 1958 when horseracing moved to its present home at Caymanas Park. Knutsford Park became the commercial business hub now known as New Kingston.
The racing product changed ownership many times over the years until it eventually went bankrupt in the late 1980s. In 1989, the government stepped in and formed Caymanas Track Limited, CTL, to oversee the 196-acre plant and its assets.
Improvements were made to the racing product since the government stepped in. Most of the improvements took place under the chairmanship of businessman Danny Melville. Among improvements were the installation of a multimillion-dollar totaliser system and the implementation of the claiming system. More exotic bets were made available to punters.
The Jamaica Racing Commission, JRC, and the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission also supervise horseracing.
Government has entrusted the JRC with overall responsibilities for the regulation of horseracing since 1972.
The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission is entrusted with responsibility for the regulation of all betting aspects of horseracing in Jamaica.
George Soutar is at present the Chairman of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission. Viris Page-Gardner, Richard Chen, Cecil A. Warren, Covis Metcalfe and Peter Millingen are the other commissioners.
In addition to the local product, promoters CTL took on Simulcast Racing from Florida in March 1990. Simulcasting has since expanded to New York, California, Arizona and Philadelphia and even Britain.
Today there are several associations, which are instrumental in horseracing in Jamaica. They are: The Jamaica Racehorse Owners and Trainers’ Associations, the Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association of Jamaica, the Jockeys’ Guild Club, the Grooms’ Association of Jamaica, and the Bookmakers and Independent Bookmakers Associations.
Jamaica has produced a number of outstanding jockeys over the years and many have had success in North America. The list includes Richard DePass and George HoSang, who won many championships in Canada.
Charles Hussey has had much number success in Florida; Winston Thompson won many races at Suffolk Downs in Boston and Tampa Bay Downs, while Andrew Ramgeet has done very well at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia.
One of the most accomplished riders in the history of Caymanas Park is Winston ‘Fanna’ Griffiths, O.D. He has not only ridden more winners than any other jockey at Caymanas Park, but also elsewhere in the English-speaking Caribbean.
In a career spanning over 30 years, Griffiths has won an unprecedented five jockeys’ championships, and has established a world record eight consecutive classic winners including all five in 1992. He has also booted home a record 39 classic winners, among them 10 Derby winners.
For his outstanding contribution to the sport, Griffiths was conferred with the National Honour, the Order of Distinction on Heroes Day, 1999.
Jockeys Charles Hussey and Trevor Simpson were also conferred with the Order of Distinctions. Hussey, a four-time champion jockey, received his Order of Distinction in 2005 and Simpson, a five-time champion, got his in 2007.
Jamaica has also produced a number of Hall of Fame trainers among them – Ralph Ziadie, Nigel Nunes, Kenneth Mattis, Allan ‘Billy’ Williams, Owen Silvera, Philip Feanny, Wayne DaCosta and Laurie Silvera.
DaCosta and Feanny have been the most dominant trainers at Caymanas Park in recent times. DaCosta has won nine trainers’ championships since 1984. He has won the last five trainers’ titles. In 2002, he saddled a record 108 winners in tandem with then stable-jockey Trevor Simpson, who rode a record 172 winners that year.
Feanny, a 14-time champion trainer, has the record of capturing eight consecutive titles from 1991 to 1998.