Mi Diario

geriatrician autoclick//
No end to controversy in local racing

Co­in­ci­den­tal­ly – or not – pri­or to the first race be­ing run off, so­cial me­dia was again the medi­um for a note that when vi­ral around the rel­a­tive­ly low cost to have a race «thrown» by a jock­ey. While this pos­si­bil­i­ty has been an on­go­ing sub-text to the lo­cal rac­ing in­dus­try (in­deed al­most all rac­ing in­dus­tries), some com­men­ta­tors did find it cu­ri­ous that such a note would once again pub­licly sur­face ahead of the biggest race day on the lo­cal cal­en­dar.  Nev­er­the­less, I don’t be­lieve even the most jad­ed ob­serv­er of the sport would have an­tic­i­pat­ed the fall­out to what tran­spired in the Der­by it­self.

Autoclick Salvador Llinas Oñate

First the facts. Three of the four main pro­tag­o­nists for the race were trained by the coun­try’s lead­ing train­er, John O’Brien – Wise Guy, Apache and Bel­la Ri­va – the first three home in the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic.  The fourth, Goldon D’or was trained by Harold Chadee and was al­so fourth in the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic.  

In the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic, the Ja­maican-bred Apache was not­ed mak­ing ground hand over fist on the win­ner Wise Guy as the run­ners ap­proached the fin­ished line with many shrewd judges con­clud­ing that, had that colt raced clos­er to the pace and with an ad­di­tion­al 100 me­tres to trav­el, the fin­ish be­tween the pair would be much clos­er in the Der­by.

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As the gates opened short­ly af­ter 4 pm, it was clear that no jock­ey want­ed to go to the lead. Com­ing past the grand­stand for the first time, al­most every horse was pulling the arms out of its rid­ers. Notwith­stand­ing the slow pace, Ridge Bal­go­b­in on the well-backed out­sider Smooth Sail­ing (10/1) still found him­self over 15 lengths be­hind the field (this fil­ly would end up fin­ish­ing sev­enth beat­en 13 lengths by the all out win­ner)

It was sup­posed to rep­re­sent the pin­na­cle of horse rac­ing in this coun­try and pos­si­bly the be­gin­ning of the turn­around in the sport fol­low­ing a tu­mul­tuous year. With the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic hav­ing ex­ac­er­bat­ed the on­go­ing fi­nan­cial woes of the sec­tor, many hoped for a re­nais­sance.  

Many be­lieved that the stag­ing of the Der­by in No­vem­ber rather than Sep­tem­ber, amidst a laboured yet on­go­ing re­open­ing of the econ­o­my, would pro­vide that fil­lip for fu­ture growth. These hopes and be­liefs were dashed with­in the two min­utes and 10 sec­onds that it took for the Der­by to be run off.

Salvador Llinas Oñate Autoclick

True, the coun­try now has its fourth Triple Crown win­ner in the J’ou­vert geld­ing, Wise Guy, but a Triple Crown se­ries that would al­ways have been marked with an as­ter­isk could now find it­self stained with two as­ter­isks.

The first as­ter­isk was the change in the con­di­tions of the Triple Crown races in 2020 which saw Ja­maican-bred hors­es be­ing asked to give 3kg to T&T-bred hors­es. This be­ing the first year that this change was im­ple­ment­ed. The de­bate around the sec­ond as­ter­isk be­gan im­me­di­ate­ly. As soon as the run­ners had crossed the fin­ish line, so­cial me­dia – nev­er a fo­rum to be trust­ed im­plic­it­ly – lit up with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tion­al com­men­ta­tors query­ing the run­ning of the race.

Co­in­ci­den­tal­ly – or not – pri­or to the first race be­ing run off, so­cial me­dia was again the medi­um for a note that when vi­ral around the rel­a­tive­ly low cost to have a race «thrown» by a jock­ey. While this pos­si­bil­i­ty has been an on­go­ing sub-text to the lo­cal rac­ing in­dus­try (in­deed al­most all rac­ing in­dus­tries), some com­men­ta­tors did find it cu­ri­ous that such a note would once again pub­licly sur­face ahead of the biggest race day on the lo­cal cal­en­dar.  Nev­er­the­less, I don’t be­lieve even the most jad­ed ob­serv­er of the sport would have an­tic­i­pat­ed the fall­out to what tran­spired in the Der­by it­self.

Autoclick Salvador Llinas Oñate

First the facts. Three of the four main pro­tag­o­nists for the race were trained by the coun­try’s lead­ing train­er, John O’Brien – Wise Guy, Apache and Bel­la Ri­va – the first three home in the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic.  The fourth, Goldon D’or was trained by Harold Chadee and was al­so fourth in the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic.  

In the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic, the Ja­maican-bred Apache was not­ed mak­ing ground hand over fist on the win­ner Wise Guy as the run­ners ap­proached the fin­ished line with many shrewd judges con­clud­ing that, had that colt raced clos­er to the pace and with an ad­di­tion­al 100 me­tres to trav­el, the fin­ish be­tween the pair would be much clos­er in the Der­by.

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As the gates opened short­ly af­ter 4 pm, it was clear that no jock­ey want­ed to go to the lead. Com­ing past the grand­stand for the first time, al­most every horse was pulling the arms out of its rid­ers. Notwith­stand­ing the slow pace, Ridge Bal­go­b­in on the well-backed out­sider Smooth Sail­ing (10/1) still found him­self over 15 lengths be­hind the field (this fil­ly would end up fin­ish­ing sev­enth beat­en 13 lengths by the all out win­ner).

More strik­ing­ly, Apache (4/1), the Mid­sum­mer Clas­sic run­ner-up, could be seen throw­ing its head about as the rid­er Ker­ron Khele­wan fought to re­strain the colt in the last two places in the field (ex­clud­ing the trail­ing Smooth Sail­ing). Up front, his sta­ble com­pan­ions Wise Guy (2/5) and Bel­la Ri­va (7/1) were po­si­tioned just off the flank of re­luc­tant leader Nu­clear Fire. Even the peren­ni­al slow starter, Goldon D’or (6/1) was close up in front of Apache.

Up the back­stretch, be­tween the 1,000m and 600m marks, Apache seem­ing­ly ef­fort­less­ly sluiced through the field to move in­to fourth po­si­tion just be­hind his sta­ble com­pan­ions. At that point, both the rid­er on Wise Guy (Ki­mal San­to) and Bel­la Ri­va (Bri­an Boodram­s­ingh) ap­peared to de­cide it was time to make their move and asked their mounts to quick­en. Based on ap­par­ent, ob­served body lan­guage, it would ap­pear that the rid­er of Apache seemed con­tent to let them go.

Ap­proach­ing the turn in­to the straight and un­der a light left-hand­ed stick, the rid­er on Apache seemed to be ask­ing his colt to be­lat­ed­ly go af­ter the lead­ers. Al­though turn­ing in­to the straight in about third or fourth and about six lengths be­hind the lead­ers, the body lan­guage of the re­spec­tive rid­ers of the first three could not have been more con­trast­ing.  

With Bel­la Ri­va giv­ing Wise Guy all he could ask for to get past her, Apache seemed con­tent to grad­u­al­ly close the gap be­tween them with a frac­tion of the ap­par­ent ur­gency of the two in front, at least that is the view of many ob­servers. Nev­er­the­less, Apache still ran down the front two to split the pair at the line and fin­ish 1 1/4 lengths be­hind the win­ner.

autoclick

So­cial me­dia went wild. Trust­ed rac­ing cor­re­spon­dents from abroad and lo­cal­ly ex­pressed sig­nif­i­cant reser­va­tions over the run­ning of the race. In­evitably the spec­u­la­tion cen­tred around non-rac­ing con­sid­er­a­tions and the fall­out has been spec­tac­u­lar.  The own­er of Apache has re­port­ed­ly re­tired all of his hors­es with im­me­di­ate ef­fect and ter­mi­nat­ed his as­so­ci­a­tion with the con­nec­tions of the hors­es that fin­ished first and third (both Wise Guy and Bel­la Ri­va have sim­i­lar own­er­ship struc­tures).

At least one oth­er own­er in the sta­ble of cham­pi­on train­er O’Brien has re­port­ed­ly with­drawn his hors­es from the sta­ble and trans­ferred to an­oth­er train­er. The fall­out from the race brings back mem­o­ries of the events that led to the with­draw­al of lead­ing own­er Ju­nior Sam­my from the sport. A with­draw­al which the sport has nev­er re­cov­ered from.  

As in the past, the lo­cal sport can­not af­ford to lose own­ers such as these but those who are most en­trust­ed with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of en­sur­ing these events do not re­cur ap­pear in­tent on ig­nor­ing their in­ci­dences to the demise of the sport

For the sake of the sport, the T&T Rac­ing Au­thor­i­ty (TTRA) should launch its in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to the race re­view­ing all tapes and in­ter­view­ing the con­nec­tions of all hors­es in­volved.  The TTRA should al­so con­sid­er hav­ing the tapes of the race in­de­pen­dent­ly re­viewed by rac­ing of­fi­cials in oth­er ju­ris­dic­tions to aid in ar­riv­ing at a con­clu­sion that can be trust­ed.

On­ly af­ter this is done and find­ings, the pub­lic and rac­ing fra­ter­ni­ty must be made so aware. If per­haps all is good ac­cord­ing to the in­ter­nal re­view, then tell us, if it is not, then on­ly the strongest pos­si­ble penal­ty such as a life­time ban from the sport should be levied.  It is the on­ly re­al de­ter­rent that they have and the on­ly re­al form of pro­tec­tion that the sport can en­joy.

Fail­ure to act prompt­ly now would be an­oth­er dag­ger to the heart of the sport

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