Racing commission takes no-nonsense approach to event manipulation
Jockey Samantha Fletcher mounts Charmin Beauty before the start of a race at Caymanas Park on February 11, 2023. (Photo: Observer file)

Horse racing has been called the "sport of kings", and just like many sporting attractions, it has a scandal-filled history.

There have been cases of people manipulating races, which has somewhat tarnished the sport.

Over the years, there have been several incidents in which cheating has occurred in horse racing, especially relating to betting. Of course, betting scandals happen in other sports as well.

Steward Antoine Nembhard said that the Jamaica Racing Commission (JRC) takes a zero-tolerance approach to any attempt at event manipulation. He said regulations are in place to ensure cheating does not happen and, if it does, that those involved are dealt with swiftly and severely.

Nembhard...what is expected at all times is that fairness is exhibited by all participants.

"What is expected at all times is that fairness is exhibited by all participants. So the trainers, the owners, the jockeys, and everyone else that is participating are expected to use a sense of fairness and to abide by the provisions of the rules," Nembhard told the Jamaica Observer.

"Where the commission gets information about event manipulation or where it can be proven that event manipulation takes place, the commission will use the full extent of the rules before applying any sanction against the quality party."

"And this may be as much as a warning off and a hefty fine, and at all times the betting public is offered a fair opportunity to receive the correct outcome. We take a very dim view of any attempt at event manipulation, and the commission will apply all the powers that it has under the rules to ensure that this type of behaviour does not occur," the chief steward further said.

In the end, race-fixing may never be totally removed from the sport, though policing this behaviour may become a lot more competent. While there may always be those who get away with it, Nembhard explained that the severity of the punishments implemented by the commission suggest that the risks far outweigh the potential rewards, which makes those affiliated with the sport think twice before engaging in such schemes.

"Well, it is a constant surveillance game that we play to ensure that what we see conforms to the provisions of the rule. Remember, every horse is expected to be ridden on its merit, and so if we are seeing horses that are not giving their best performance, then questions are going to be asked of the rider or even of the trainer as to what is happening in the case, and they need to convince us that nothing untoward is happening.

"I think the greatest deterrent is the fact that if you are caught, you will maybe be expelled from participating in riding or racing in Jamaica ever again.

"So I mean, that is definitely a consequence that only you alone can bear, as if there are other parties involved, none of them are going to suffer that consequence; only you alone can bear the consequences of that action," Nembhard noted.

Nembhard said that with any type of gambling, event manipulation is trying to get an advantage, which is usually based on the gambling concept.

"People are trying to fix an outcome so that they can win and make more money." And all participants sometimes, unfortunately, may have licensees who consider and may have actually participated in that process.

"Like I said, the commission takes a dim view of that, and anyone found guilty of that obviously has due process, so you have the right to be represented, you have the right to be heard, and you have the right to make your case," he confirmed.

On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, jockey Samantha Fletcher was suspended by the JRC for 25 race days for not riding her mount on merit. The incident happened on February 4 when Fletcher rode Gone A Negril in the seventh race of the day, finishing in seventh place.

Gone A Negril came back 18 days later, also with Fletcher in the saddle, to win a maiden condition race over the five-furlong (1,000m) straight course by 11 and three-quarter lengths.

Fletcher appealed the suspension, and following the hearing, which took place on Tuesday, March 21, the suspension was downgraded to 20 days.

The Jamaica Observer has learnt that Fletcher's representatives are in the process of filing another appeal, which is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court. Fletcher is being represented by attorney-at-law Douglas Thompson.

BY RUDDY ALLEN Staff reporter

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