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Can Cedric Stewart bring deliverance to CTL?

BY PETER TYRELL
Monday, March 04, 2013


CEDRIC Stewart is the new chief executive officer (CEO) of Caymanas Track Limited (CTL), the promoting company for horse racing in the country. The gentleman signed on the dotted line recently and officially started working on Friday, March 1.

His appointment fills the vacancy left open by the resignation of Franz Jobson at the end of last year. Stewart is a trained economist and has a background in racing as a long time owner.

Given his association with horse racing, Stewart has a head start as this writer believes that prior knowledge of racing and the machinations involved in dealing with participants like the trainers, jockeys and owners gives a distinctive advantage in managing the affairs of the promoting company.

Stewart, truth be told, inherits an industry tottering on the brink of financial melt-down and stakeholders' resistant to change despite the obvious need to explore new methods and plans designed and aimed toward resuscitating this once thriving industry.

By now the new CEO must have found out that the payment of purses already won is behind by six to seven weeks. This is one issue he has to deal with very quickly as the churn of money generated by the payment of purses is absolutely critical to the survival of racing.

It is a well known fact that trainers are suffering because owners have great difficulty paying for the keep and care of their horses. If trainers suffer from a lack of money, the grooms will automatically be affected. It is a never-ending saga of gloom and a lack of response from the managers of the industry in finding creative solutions in dealing with the matter.

This situation is not helped by what industry insiders call a 'cut- and-paste' mentality currently afflicting CTL in general and the pacing office in particular. The insiders say that races now offered in the condition books more often than not are taken from condition books of previous years, in other words cut from, and placed (paste) to form new books.

There seems to be no real effort to walk the stable area, talking to trainers, seeking possible entries for upcoming races or trying to introduce new races based on a qualitative analyst of the racing stock available. This lack of proactive action is why the insiders say that two of the major prep races for the Classics have had to be abandoned.

CEO Stewart of necessity has to investigate the races offered and the efforts made at garnering entries as this process is the catalyst that spurs competitive racing which in turn generates more betting. If races are uncompetitive in the main then the overall betting will be affected thereby denying the churn from race to race.

Yes, there is money earned from the simulcast of races from England and North America which assists to bolster the financial bottom line of the company, but this cannot be placed in the forefront of the industry. Simulcast races is an extremely important companion to local races but not the cure. The cure is to provide competitive local races on the racetrack at Caymanas Park.

Stewart's exertion as the chief executive officer is made worse by a flagging economy which is already having deleterious consequences on the viability of the company's Off Track Betting parlours (OTBs). The five and a half per cent commission paid to operators of the OTBs is already woefully inadequate. Now we are hearing that monies owing by some of the OTB operators have not been paid, and those who pay are doing so very late. This has left CTL with no choice but to close down some of these parlours.

This is not what is wanted at this time. Rationalising the status and performance of the OTBs is among the top action items for Stewart and his team of managers.

There is little doubt that corporate Jamaica is displaying very little interest in racing. Sponsorship has waned to the point of being almost non-existence. Based on last year's offerings, none of the Classic races or the leading handicap events were sponsored. Corporate sponsorship of horseracing does not offer much in terms of actual increases in purse money but sponsorship carry great promotional value and in some cases beleaguered punters benefit from these promotions.

Stewart started his sojourn as CTL's CEO alongside the appointment of a new marketing manager. Despite the dire economic situation attempts have to be made to get companies involved again. It does help to promote the industry.

CEO Stewart undoubtedly faces a daunting task. He may be the man tasked by his board and by extension the government in preparing the company for divestment. If this is so his sojourn might not be long. Yet we expect enough to be done to begin the process of reviving this ailing entity.

This writer at this stage will not judge Stewart; instead we will watch and wait to see what he is made of and the difference he will make.

We hope he is not blinkered or will use the tongue tie to repel those truly interested in returning horseracing to its once glorious position. We also expect transparency in dealing with stakeholders and the public.

May the gods be with you Cedric Stewart.



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