by Roy R. Morris
On its current path, the “sport of kings” could soon be reserved for kings only – or at least for persons with the pockets of kings.
And long-standing member of the local horse racing fraternity, Sir Charles Williams, is apparently not one of them. He told Barbados TODAY he was selling his horses and getting out of the business.
According to Sir Charles, a proficient rider and polo player, as much as he loves the sport and horses, racing in Barbados, rather than bringing profits, had been forcing him for too long to dig into other resources to continue.
The highway construction guru said he had advertised all his race horses for sale with the intention of shutting down the operation. With the exception of one worker who had been with him for more than 30 years, Sir Charles said, he would be laying off the entire staff.
“I have always loved horses and of course I will keep one or two to train, and if someone wants to lease the facilities I am open to that, but right now it takes $2,300 per month to keep a race horse in Barbados and that is not sustainable,” he added.
He noted too that with the pay of grooms ranging from $600 to $800 per week, “I just can’t afford to go on”.
Fellow race horse owner, hotelier Peter Odle agreed that it “has been a long time since horse racing in Barbados was profitable”, noting that most persons who engaged in the sport did so for the love of it.
“I certainly did not enter horse racing to make money,” Odle added, “if not I would have left long ago!”
Given the small sums that owners received as prize money, Odle explained that persons who “happen to break even are those who breed and sell and use that to offset the cost of racing”.
He noted too that while an owner might have one really good horse that made money, in most instances it would be one of a number, and the others might be burning money rather than making it.
Among the general public, he noted that horse racing was not as popular as it used to be, with large crowds turning up on only a few days per year – like Gold Cup day and Boxing Day. Odle explained that the reluctance or inability of local owners to import top notch horses as they did two or three decades ago was also linked to the small earnings that come from victories.
“Most people will tell you that the winnings don’t justify that kind of investment,” Odle noted.
The veteran race horse owner added though that the sport in Trinidad and Tobago and particularly the United Kingdom was experiencing similar challenges, while the French and Canadians were enjoying considerable vibrance. Repeated efforts to get a comment from president of the Barbados Turf Club, Sir David Seale, were unsuccessful. [email protected]
by Roy R. Morris