Among numerous tributes to the brilliant horse racing commentator and administrator Mr Chris Armond, who died this week at age 67, perhaps none strikes a chord more profoundly than a line from another legend of the industry, Mr George HoSang.
“Chris Armond had racing in his blood and that is all...,” Mr HoSang, arguably Jamaica’s greatest jockey, told this newspaper.
It was almost inevitable for Mr Armond to be immersed in racing from a very early age since his father Joseph, a horse racing Hall of Fame inductee, was a co-managing director of Caymanas Park Limited, and his grandfather Altamont was the founder of the promoting company, Jamaica Turf Club.
It’s easy to imagine the young Armond as a toddler, giddily soaking up the unique atmosphere of Caymanas Park, the home of Jamaican horse racing, and, at very close quarters, developing a love and admiration for horses.
Most Jamaicans first became aware of Mr Armond, later dubbed ‘Mr Horse Racing’, in 1975 when he launched into horse racing commentary, bringing a new dimension to the genre. The power and charisma of his broadcast delivery made him a household name for fans of the sport and a wider radio audience.
In 1985, he moved on to administration, not just in Jamaica but to the wider Caribbean and North America.
He began as racing secretary and subsequently became the industry’s first director of racing before moving on to the United States to work in horse racing there.
In 1989, Mr Armond heeded the call of then Caymanas Track Limited chairman and parliamentarian Mr Danny Melville to serve as director of racing with additional responsibility for promotions, marketing, and public relations.
A formidable marketer with an eye for innovation, Mr Armond initiated the claiming system in local horse racing in 1993 and the popular high-five exotic wager.
In the mid- to late 90s, Mr Armond was again on the move serving as vice-president of racing in both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
He returned to Jamaica in the early 2000s to play a pivotal role in various areas of administration until his retirement in 2020 when The Chris Armond Sprint Trophy was named in his honour.
Far-reaching as was Mr Armond’s contribution to administration, it was as horse racing commentator unparalleled in reach and popularity that he will be most remembered.
At a time when radio was still ‘king’ of mass media, a very young Mr Armond — who was introduced to radio by another legendary broadcaster Mr Lindy Delapenha — commanded the airwaves on race days with his melodious voice and vivid, colourful description.
Colour was one thing, but Mr Armond seemed to know everything about horses, the people who rode them, their handlers, including trainers and owners. That knowledge came to the listener in picturesque, analytical detail before, during, and after each race.
We will never be able to measure the full extent to which Mr Armond’s commentary influenced horse racing’s impregnable position in the Jamaican psyche. What’s beyond doubt is that it was considerable.
We all know death is inevitable, yet, it is human to mourn. To family, friends, and the entire horse racing fraternity, we say take heart, for Mr Armond’s legacy will stand tall, always.
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