Four-time champion jockey of Jamaica, Emilio “Bimbo” Rodriquez, has described Chris Armond’s death as “a great loss to Caymanas Park and Jamaica”. He and the former commentator/administrator, who died May 11 at age 66, were friends for over 50 years.
The Atlanta-based Rodriquez credits Armond’s first-world innovations, such as the claiming system and simulcast broadcasting, for transforming Caymanas Park into a sophisticated racetrack.
“Chris was Caymanas Park, he did a lot of great work for them. In Chris’s days, when you look at the track, how packed it was in those days, you knew it was the work of Chris Armond,” he said.
Armond came from a family with bloodline steeped in the thoroughbred industry. His grandfather, Altamont Armond, was founder of Jamaica Turf Club, which promoted races at early Jamaican tracks like Knutsford Park.
His father, Joseph, was managing director of Caymanas Park Limited, which managed day-to-day operations at the St Catherine facility. Armond established himself as a race commentator there and on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation radio station from 1975 to 1985.
Many of his memorable calls involved races won by Rodriquez, including the epic 1979 Derby on Lucky Ole Sun. They first met nine years earlier when Armond was an assistant trainer and Rodriquez was making a name at Caymanas.
“Chris is like a brother to me. Chris is the first one who took me to Canada in 1977,” said Rodriquez. “I spoke to him before he went to do the operation. I spoke to Chris right through, spoke to him in the hospital, spoke with his son.”
Rodriquez won his Caymanas titles during the 1980s. He migrated to the United States in 1989 and rode in several colonies there, including Calder in South Florida, Belmont in New York, and Colonial Downs in Delaware.
For his contribution to racing in Jamaica, Rodriquez was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2020. Like many of his colleagues in racing, it is hard for him to think of Caymanas Park without Chris Armond.
“Words can’t even explain what the loss of Chris Armond means to Caymanas Park and Jamaica. Everybody loved him, and because of that love, everybody going to miss him,” he said.