It’s no secret that I have a long established love affair with horse-racing. From the first moment I saw the magnificent thoroughbreds at Caymanas Park in Kingston as a young child, I was fascinated, but playing cricket & football occupied so much of my time and energy that I didn’t rekindle my interest properly until I reached the third form at Kingston College. Some classmates seemed to know everything there was to know about the local racing scene, and not wanting to sound ignorant about who was the better trainer – Billy Williams or Laurie Silvera or who was the better jockey – Kenneth Mattis or Winston Ellis, I decided to go out to Caymanas Park on race days to acquaint myself with the whole ambience around the horses, trainers and jockeys. Eventually I got to know just about everything there was to know and earned the nickname “Tempus” around my schoolmates. The original Tempus was a horse at Caymanas Park and I had more faith in him than his form actually merited.
The rest is history as they say.
My love of horses and all aspects of breeding & racing were indulged as I travelled the world playing cricket. In England, Australia & New Zealand I would often visit stud farms just simply to touch them and to see them frolicking and galloping around the paddock. I’m always amazed by the impressive combination of power and grace and it enthralled me to watch them put to the test on the race track.
Of course it became inevitable that I would one day get into horse racing from an owner’s perspective but it was a brief encounter that ended in 1985. Being away from Jamaica so often playing cricket ensured that I didn’t get to enjoy it as often as I would have liked and there were many small, niggling, incidents around the racing circuit in Jamaica that perturbed me so it became inevitable that I would sell up and get out of the ownership game.
Having spent so much time in England, I got to know more and more people involved in racing. I eventually was introduced to Michael Stoute. Michael is a Barbadian, who lives in England and who has risen to become one of the top trainers in the world, training horses for The Aga Khan and other notable owners. The great Derby winner, Shergar, was in his stable.
My relationship with Michael is symbiotic as he is as avid a cricket fan as I am an avid spectator of horse-racing, but paradoxically I prefer to watch racing on TV in the comfort of my home rather than trackside as you don’t actually see much of the horses there. I find that I get to see far more via the TV coverage, from the Parade ring right through to the finish line, and I also get the bonus of the slow replay!
Horse-racing and Cricket seem to go hand in hand particularly in the Caribbean. Many well known cricketers have been owners or Turf Club officials and you won’t find many Cricket dressing rooms where the players aren’t poring over the tips in the daily newspaper. Many players enjoy a day at the races for relaxation, though this was never my recreation as I would return from the track physically exhausted and mentally worn out. It did take my mind off cricket completely though!
A recent highlight arising from my horse passion was when I was invited to take part in the Royal procession at Royal Ascot in 2009. I was forewarned that the Queen would be calling me to ask if I would like to attend so Laurie-Ann and I went to have lunch with Her Majesty at Windsor Castle before joining the procession in the carriages for that famous ride down the Ascot straight, then we spent the rest of the day in the Royal Box. It was a real honour and something that I am unlikely to ever experience again.