Jockeys, trainers and grooms in the island are appealing to Government to give their sport a much-needed break. They are calling on the Mia Mottley administration to allow for local horse racing to resume even if it is behind closed doors as their livelihood continues to be in serious jeopardy.
Members of the horseracing fraternity met for an emergency session at the Garrison Savannah yesterday. And they were all in unison, lamenting that they were struggling to make ends meet and to provide for their respective families.
There are more than 2000 jobs at stake and those who spoke with Barbados TODAY explained that their entire incomes were derived from the sport and with no races allowed – publicly or behind closed doors – had placed them in a crisis situation.
Horseracing is among several sports that have been suspended by Government as a result of concerns attached to the spread of COVID-19. There have been only four race days within the past 13 months and according to the jockeys and trainers, many of the horse owners have so far threatened to quit the business unless something is done swiftly. Jockeys and trainers benefit from a percentage of revenue earned by horse owners.
“Right now, I am expecting my firstborn and a lot of us as jockeys have kids and it is not easy to be dealing with. We are race riders; we are not exercise riders. We make most of our money race riding. From my standpoint, my girlfriend is not working, so it is tough because I am making no money right now. I am only speaking for myself but I am sure there are other guys here that have similar circumstances at home,” one jockey told Barbados TODAY.
He added: “The jockeys and the grooms without the horses there is nothing for us. Most of us rely on here. It is work here in the mornings and for the rest of the day it is nothing. If it carries on like this most of the owners are going to pull out and then the horses are going to go home. No owner is going to feed a horse and it is not making any money. So, they will put them down and then we will be out of jobs.”
A racehorse trainer whose job is also on the line said horse racing in Barbados was imploding quickly and they were begging for assistance.
“Right now, we are imploding quickly. We are all here this morning asking for some type of assistance. Whether it is the government giving us a hand to get through this turbulent time.
Or whether they allow us to have racing behind closed doors. We are just asking for some kind of assistance to just get by because the industry is coming to a screeching halt,” the trainer said.
The trainer added: “The trainers, jockeys, grooms, we are the ones that are going to suffer. The wider public thinks that horse racing is owned by people with deep pockets. Yes, they are 20 percent of people who could afford it. But what about the other 80 percent.
“We are the ones that are set to lose as much because for some of us this is all we ever do in life – work with horses. The average guy who is at the bottom is who really works in racing. This is all some of these guys know is to care for racehorses.
“Here at the Garrison Savannah is a breeding ground. If we close down what is going to happen to all of the champion trainers and jockeys. We got the Saffie Josephs, Patrick Husbands, where would they be honing their skills to start and go aboard? It is tough.”
During their appeal, the jockeys and trainers pointed out that Barbados was the only Caribbean country in the world where the sport exists that there is currently no horseracing. Horseracing is currently active in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
An owner of four horses gave his take on the situation and said while he continues to hold on with the hope that local horse racing will restart right away, he explained that it was becoming very costly to maintain his horse at $2,500 a month.
“My horse here at the Garrison is like $2, 500 dollars a month and only last week I had to get $700 to pay a vet. This is money I have to look for. I am a pensioner and I put this money into it with the hope that it would bring me something in return. My family is suffering as a result of my investment because of this. [it is] putting me off, shutting me down.
“Even if I race one race and I get $5000, it goes a long way . . . This is why we are appealing with the government to give us a break so that we can get back something in our pockets. Give the horse owners, give the jockeys, trainers, grooms a chance,” the owner said. [email protected]