FANS will be allowed to witness live horse racing in Trinidad for the first time in more than 11 months tomorrow at Santa Rosa Park, Arima.
It will be the first time since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced last year that spectators will be officially allowed at a local sporting event.
Racing has been taking place without patrons present since the end of June, when the sport resumed after being on hiatus since mid-March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
After Prime Minister Keith Rowley announced that betting outlets would be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity in late October, the Arima Race Club (ARC) mistakenly thought they were on the green light list.
The club responsible for staging racing in the country actually advertised that fans would be welcomed at the track on October 31 – the day of the second leg of Triple Crown (Midsummer Classic) – but had to turn them away at the gates when the Ministry of Health informed them the day before that they did not have permission.
The ministry finally give the all clear on Tuesday and Robert Bernard stated that, “we are obviously delighted and this will go a long way to revitalising the industry.”
The ARC president reiterated that “racing is a sport which depends on gambling and it has been very difficult to keep it alive without patrons at the track for so long.”
Punters have been wagering online or by telephone and seeing the events on TV6 or the FLOW cable network since the shutdown and the sport has been “hanging on by a string.”
The ARC has not staged more than two race days in any month since the resumption and Bernard is hopeful that they would be able get back to the usual average of a little more than three in the next few months.
The pandemic has affected prize-money to such an extent that horses are racing for purses closer to those in the 1970s. Rated events have been worth either $12,650 or $16,100 since the resumption on June 27, after being between $25,000 and $50,000 on March 14.
Bernard hopes that when betting gets back on track this problem will be resolved.
No more than 50 per cent of the crowd capacity will be allowed, but ARC chief executive officer Ken Ojeer does not consider this a problem, pointing out that “the track is almost never more than half full anyway.”
Patrons will not be allowed to enter the premises without a face covering and will be required to practice social distancing when in the stands. They will have to undergo temperature checks at the front gate and hand-sanitising stations will be provided to help combat the spread of the disease.
Tomorrow’s six-race card is a routine one, but Making Headlines and General JN, the two highest-rated horses in the country (both at #116) will clash in the penultimate event at 3.50 p.m.
Post time for the fourth round of the ARC’s 2021 Season is 1.15 p.m.