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Origin of Horse Racing in Jamaica
The history of horse racing dates back to 4,500 BC. However, it took a lot more years after for the sport to gain its popularity in Jamaica. According to historical records, it was in 1509 that Jamaica saw its first horses. By 1816, horse racing had become a very popular sport in the country. Very soon, Jamaica had established its name for its outstanding stock breeding. It is therefore no wonder that the island soon became a major horse racing hub. The Jamaica Jockey Club was established in 1905 as a private members’ club followed by the setting up of the Jamaica Racing Commission; which came about around seven decades later. Apart from the primary responsibility of organising horse races on the Caymanas Track, this club is also in charge of formulating the rules associated with racing and holding meetings regarding the sport.
Horse Racing in the Country Today
Over the years, Jamaica has introduced several excellent jockeys to the rest of the world. The racing community in Jamaica today is comprised of close to 20,000 members including racing officials, jockeys, breeders, and grooms. Currently, horse races take place only at the Caymanas Park Racecourse as it is the only horse racetrack in the country. The track has an excellent record of promoting nearly 900 on-track races and offering 10,500 overseas races through its simulcast system in a year. At least 13 major companies in the country sponsor 34 on-track races.
Where is Caymanas Track Located?
The Caymanas Track was set up in 1959 by Alexander Hamilton. However, thirty years later, in 1989, the Jamaican Government took over the track after it faced bankruptcy following several changes in ownership. This takeover was done as an initiative to continue promoting the sport of horse racing. The racecourse was originally located in the National Heroes Park in Kingston and then shifted to Knutsford Park at the beginning of the 20th century.
Currently, the track is a part of the Caymanas Park in St. Catherine that covers a vast area of 196 acres. There were many other smaller racecourses surrounding this track and along the countryside. But they were gradually shut down, which eventually left the Caymanas Track with no competition. The Jamaica Race Course, which as also referred to as the Jamaica Racetrack, is one of many such horse racing facilities that was unable to stay open.
The Popularity of Horse Racing in Caymanas Track
Off-course betting is one of the primary reasons why horse racing in Caymanas Track has been able to maintain its popularity over the years. This mainly due to the fact that Jamaica permits gambling on its horse races. The gambling takes place outside the race track. Off-course betting, as it is known, can be done at approximately 60 outlets across various stretches of the entire island on all days except Saturdays. The track also allows wagering on local races on all public holidays and Saturdays, as well as most Wednesdays; apart from encouraging betting on its premises.
Jamaican Horse Racing in North America
Jamaican horse racing is all set to make its foray into the North American continent thanks to a partnership venture between the country’s Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL) and the Monarch Group of North America. Interestingly, SVERL is responsible for the ownership and maintenance of Caymanas Track that hosts the racing events of the country. The venture aims at bringing variously structured and value-based improvements to Jamaica’s racing industry and make its presence felt in a huge market.
Moreover, punters from North America can now enjoy live viewing of races on the Caymanas Track and place bets on their favourite horses. This is a dream come true after several months of SVREL joining hands with SportsMax Ltd., a prominent broadcasting company in Jamaica, to simulcast all the races that take place on the track during race days. SVREL is also considering further ways of broadening the viewership of races in North America.
Horse Racing in Jamaica in the Future
Horse racing is forecast to continue to be a major activity across the island. This can be seen from the number of horses in Jamaica. The country continues to boast being able to lead in having the maximum number of horses in the entire Caribbean region; most stallions here are imported. Jamaica also has quite a few noteworthy horse trainers to its credit. There are many institutions that play a pivotal role in promoting horse racing on the island. Some of them are The Jamaica Racehorse Owners and Trainers’ Association, The Jockeys’ Guild Club, The Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association of Jamaica and The Grooms’ Association of Jamaica. Most of these institutions aim at bringing out the best trainers and horse racers in the country. A few of them focus on breeding high-class thoroughbred horses for racing in the country. This indicates that horse racing has established a firm hold in the culture of Jamaica with a bright future for the sport in the country and more upcoming races on the Caymanas Track.
The 1970s and 1980s were a dull period for horse racing in Jamaica. Presently, horse racing in the country is no longer at its peak as it was during the yesteryears. However, the sport has not lost its importance and the interest of the islanders towards this activity has not come to an end. Horse race betting in Jamaica today is governed by the Betting Games and Lotteries Board and is controlled by the Government. The Government regulates the sport by appointing a Racing Commission dedicated for this purpose. The Commission still organises race days and races take place with full fervour and fanfare on Wednesdays, Saturdays and national holidays.
Caymanas Track is often bustling with life on these days to see who emerges as the winner. On major race days, the track witnesses massive crowds of as much as 12,500 people from various parts of the country to cheer the riders and place a bet on their favourite horses. Each race takes place at about every half an hour. Races generally start around noon and go on until dusk.