Chris Armond — transformative figure in ‘Sport of Kings’
Chris Armond walks on the track at Caymanas Park. (Photo: Observer file)

THERE is not a sports fan who I have met, or spoken to, who did not know “Chris”. He was racing.

Bred in the purple, Chris was the son of Joe Armond, the one-time co-managing director of Caymanas Park Limited, the promoter of thoroughbred racing in Jamaica, and his grandfather Altamont was the founder of the Jamaica Turf Club, the then promoter of racing in the island.

Chris was a frequent visitor to the different tracks where racing was conducted in Jamaica, but he really began to get involved in the sport when he began to work with Watson’s Off Track Betting company as a “Telex” commentator on racing. There he developed his calling that propelled him into the heart and soul of Jamaican sport fans, no matter what sport was your favourite.

This “gift” was rooted in his diction, style and, most importantly, his knowledge of the jockeys and trainers of the featured equines who were competing.

As his fame spread the racing public, now completely enamored with this commentator, began to wonder how it was that this person behind the voice was not more involved in the day-to-day activities of the local racing scene.

From Watson’s, Chris moved to the now-defunct JBC Radio where his fame and expertise served to pave the way to his beginning in administration. After a stint as a race caller in the USA, Danny Melville, who was appointed to head the “new” promoting company, Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) , journeyed to a race track in the Detriot, Michigan, where he convinced Chris to return home to be tasked — along with a new board comprising, for the first time, representatives of the stakeholders (grooms, jockeys, trainers, owners breeders and punters) — with making local racing profitable. And Chris didn’t disappoint.

At CTL, Chris spearheaded the opening up of new betting opportunities, along with a new and modern tote board. His “High Five “ and other innovations ensured that local racing did indeed become profitable.

He was not only an agent for local riders, alerting them to the possibilities of potential mounts with winning chances, but he also used his overseas contacts to have jockeys from other countries come here for competition, making big race days occasions to be seen on the social calendar.

I remember very well one rainy race day when there was a rumour/hint of industrial action that threatened to curtail the meet. The track had become waterlogged and needed raking, murmurs and sighs grew louder and louder only to be silenced when the tractor was seen removing the excess water from the track, driven by our “Chris”.

His knowledge and expertise in racing matters led to him being lured to Trinidad where for three years he was in charge of racing in that country, then to Barbados in a similar role before his return to his “home”, his beloved Jamaica.

Chris was driven by his knowledge and passion for the sport. He was not always right but no one could successfully question his commitment to get whatever problem in racing that confronted him, resolved.

It is said that no one is indispensable, and that is a fact, but racing in the Caribbean will miss this giant of a man who gave every single day of his life to the sport that he loved. Rest well, Chris. You will be missed.

DR PAUL WRIGHT

Editor’s note: Paul Wright is a medical doctor specialising in sports medicine and a former board member of Caymanas Track Limited.

DR PAUL WRIGHT

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