I remember the days. Individuals weighing all of 80 pounds yelling “go faster” while holding on to me for dear life.

My feelings were ignored because they figured I was strong. The many piggyback rides I’ve given in my life has made me empathetic to the plight of the racehorse.

Recently, stakeholders of horse racing staged a demonstration at Caymanas Park. The demonstration highlighted the uncertainty they face with no idea of when racing will resume. Racing at Caymanas Park had been called off as part of the Government of Jamaica's efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the island.

Supreme Ventures Racing and Entertainment Limited (SVREL), the company behind all betting on horse racing in Jamaica says it understands the frustrations of the racing fraternity and will reopen Caymanas Park as soon as it’s allowed to do so in a “comprehensive manner”.

I hear the plight of the jockeys who aren't earning and the entire industry that is suffering but the horses might not agree.

Think about it, they go through a lot.

Take British racehorse ‘Humorist’ for example. After winning Britain’s richest horse race in 1921, it was revealed that the horse was suffering from tuberculosis and only had one healthy lung.

Can you imagine training while operating on one good lung? Racehorses have to train. That way their chances of winning races are higher. They have to exercise– sprinting again and again. Horses have to listen to their jockey’s instructions and do as they are told. They are told when to hold back, when to run flat out, when to make their move, and when to give up the ghost. Horses, before COVID-19, had no freedom.

Roughly, 70% of a jockey's training is done on top of a racehorse and though jockeys have strict weight requirements, a horse has to deal with them, heavy equipment, and on occasion, added weight for handicapping purposes.

While the jockey's skill at getting the best out of a horse, reading the race right are unquestionable talents and mean a good jockey can beat a bad one, the real stars of Caymanas Park or any other track are the horses.

Horses are the ones that bets get made on. With more and more off-track betting, as well as a full stadium every weekend, there is increasingly more pressure on horses to do well. Owners and trainers invest time and effort and a great deal of money on horses and expect to be paid back in winnings.

When those winnings don't come, you hear of the ugly side of horse racing. Horses die from substance abuse, clearly not self-inflicted, then there is the practice of 'batterying' a horse. That is where you put an actual battery on the horse and allow raw connections to shock the horse into running harder. Then some horses have to be given Lasix in order to stop them from bleeding through the nose during runs. I'm absolutely sure no horse wants to run until he or she bleeds? Other horses die from respiratory, digestive, multiorgan system disorders and limb injuries. Can you imagine being put to death because you have a limp?

The theory of evolution says that humans are born to die but, how many of us fear death? Similarly, horses were born to run but who says they want to all the time and at the behest of a 100-pound weight on top of it? Racehorses contribute a lot to horse racing making them stakeholders too. The least we can do is consider them.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Potters Corner was the victor in Saturday's Virtual Grand National, with the computer-simulated race organised to raise money after the real event was cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bookmakers created the initiative and pledged to donate all profits to NHS Charities Together, supporting the National Health Service during the COVID-19 crisis.

The virtual event was televised in the United Kingdom, with all real races suspended at least until the end of April.

Potters Corner, an 18-1 shot before the race, clinched the victory in the closing stages, with pre-race favourite Tiger Roll previously in charge with a mile left before fading.

Tiger Roll ultimately had to settle for fourth behind Potters Corner, Walk In The Mill and Any Second Now.

The virtual field was made up of runners previously expected to take part at Aintree – the race going ahead thanks to CGI and high-tech algorithms.

Tiger Roll would have been seeking a third straight Grand National success had the real race gone ahead.

Venice “Pappy” Richards is statistically the greatest jockey in Southern Caribbean thoroughbred racing history and the story of his death this week in Trinidad and Tobago is heartbreaking.

Barbadian Richards, after enduring months of fading health and failing eyesight, sadly passed away Monday evening destitute and alone in a room at the Hummingbird Stud Farm Stables near Santa Rosa Park in Arima. He was 76 years old.

How could such an icon, a legend of almost 60 years of tremendous contribution to Caribbean horse racing, suffer such an unbefitting departure from this life?

He was quiet but proud and his self-esteem, it seems, prevented him from advertising how tough things got for him.

But his health and physical struggles became highly visible in recent months and surely more should have been done to assist him.

Close associates over his decades of involvement in the Sport of Kings, including iconic Trinidad and Tobago trainer and owner Joe Hadeed and Barbadian champion jockey and trainer Challenor Jones expressed immense sorrow and surprise over the manner of his passing.

The ravages of diabetes and hypertension had left him thin, frail and partially blind and meeting medical expenses had become even more challenging after his employment contract with the Arima Race Club (ARC) was not renewed in January. He had been hired in an ARC consultancy role in T&T in the past decade after losing his gig with the Barbados Turf Club (BTC) at his native Garrison Savannah racetrack.

Richards scored over 1,400 career wins but in reality that figure could well be over 1600 if you add scores of undocumented victories over several years as visiting rider to Martinique and Guyana. Only Jamaican legend Winston Griffiths (1,664 wins) has as many wins as Richards at English-speaking Caribbean racetracks.

He was never interested in becoming a racehorse trainer as many successful retired jockeys had done. Richards was committed to giving back to the art of race-riding and he tutored aspiring riders at Jockeys’ schools in his native Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

En route to jockeys’ championship titles nine times in Barbados and T&T including 1982 when he was champion in both those countries, Pappy Richards was a multiple winner of all big races in Barbados.

In 1989, he completed the Triple Crown – the Guineas, Midsummer Classic and Derby -- with Bill Marshall’s Coo Bird. Richards scored six Derby wins in his career, four in Barbados and two in T&T. Add to that five Barbados Guineas wins, four victories in the Midsummer Classic and four triumphs in the Cockspur Gold Cup, now called the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.

His first Gold Cup win came in 1986 aboard Bentom before steering Sir David Seale’s Sandford Prince to victories in 1989, 1991 and 1992 when the seven-year-old champion posted a record time of one minute 49.20 seconds for the rich nine-furlong event.

Richards also won 85 races in a stint in the United States in the early 1970s making appearances at New England’s Rockingham Park and Suffolk Downs also Lincoln Downs and Finger Lakes.

The Caribbean’s all-time most successful jockey, Patrick Husbands, with 3,370 North American wins and a bundle of accolades in Canadian racing, cites staying close to Pappy Richards, learning from him throughout his growing years, played a big part in making him who he is today.

Husbands admits he “looked up to Venice” when he was developing as a rider.

“Up to this day I still think he is the best rider in the Caribbean,” says Husbands, a record eight-time winner of the Sovereign Award as Canada’s most outstanding jockey and seven-time champion rider at Woodbine. Richards’s great rival Chally Jones described him as a “fine gentlemen, dedicated” and being the “epitome” of what a jockey represents.

At approximately 5’ 4” tall, Richards maintained a consistent riding weight of between 110 and 112 pounds throughout his career, a demonstration of commitment and discipline.

For his sweeping successes and service to sport, Richards earned from the Barbados Government a National Award in 1991, the Silver Crown of Merit (SCM). He was also inducted into Barbados Racing Hall of Fame and also the racing Hall of Fame for Trinidad and Tobago.

T&T’s ARC has a Benevolent Fund in place to cover racing men falling on hard times, somehow Richards did not appear to have been a beneficiary of this scheme.

The despair over his sad passing extends even to the funeral plans since closure of the T&T Ports due to the COVID-19 pandemic will bar family, friends and well-wishers attending from his native Barbados.

Today marks 25 years since Major League Baseball stars called off their strike, which had resulted in the previous year's World Series being scrapped.

It is also 38 years to the day since the New York Mets were left stunned by the death of one of the biggest names in baseball.

History was made on this day in England at Aintree in 1977, while India's cricketers and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney were both celebrating nine years ago.

Let's take a look back at April 2 in sporting history.

1972 - Baseball in shock as Mets manager Hodges dies

Gil Hodges had been a superstar with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Los Angeles Dodgers, and rounded off his playing career with the just-founded New York Mets. An eight-time All-Star, as a coach he added to the two World Series with the Dodgers, Hodges famously reviving the Mets and leading them to a shock 1969 title triumph over the Baltimore Orioles. But Hodges died on April 2, 1972, at the age of just 47, when he suffered a heart attack following a round of golf in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was his second heart attack: a first came in Atlanta in September 1968, early in his career as manager of the Mets.

1977 - Red Rum wins third Grand National

Tommy Stack rode Red Rum to Aintree glory, as the Ireland-bred steeplechaser followed up 1973 and 1974 triumphs at the Liverpool course with an unprecedented third Grand National victory. The feat has never been matched, with Red Rum triumphing against the odds after second-placed finishes in 1975 and 1976. At the age of 12, Red Rum's third success went down as one of racing's most famous wins.

1995 - Baseball stars go back to work

From August 12 1994 until April 2 1995, there was no top-tier baseball in the United States, with MLB stars going on strike in a labour dispute that stemmed from salary-cap proposals that got players riled. The 1994-95 season was abandoned in September, and the strike lasted for 232 days until judge Sonia Sotomayor's injunction against team owners persuaded the players to go back to work.

2011 - India triumph, Rooney treble

India landed Cricket World Cup glory in front of their home fans in Mumbai when the hosts landed a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the final. Mahela Jayawardene made a century in Sri Lanka's 274-6 before India reached their target with 10 balls to spare, helped by 97 from Gautam Gambhir and 91 not out from MS Dhoni.

In London, on the same day, Wayne Rooney scored a hat-trick as Manchester United came from 2-0 behind to defeat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park in the Premier League, an important result as Alex Ferguson's team went on to win the title weeks later.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, chances are you need to look back over the archives if you want to get your daily sporting fix.

Well, we've got you covered for Friday.

March 20 boasts a few notable events throughout sporting history, including a number of Grand Nationals, a heavyweight title fight and the retiring of one of basketball's most famous jerseys.

Here are five of the biggest things to happen in sport on this day...

 

1948 - 50/1 shot mare wins Grand National to end 

The 102nd edition of one of the world's most famous horse races saw Sheila's Cottage, ridden by Arthur Thompson, defy odds of 50/1 to win. She was also the first mare to triumph at Aintree in 46 years and only the 12th in the long and storied history of the steeplechase. Thompson and trainer Neville Trump would record a second win together four years later.

1988 - Mike Tyson knocks out Tyrell Biggs

In Atlantic City, Tyson took on 1984 Olympic gold medallist Tyrell Biggs, who was 15-0 since turning professional and was literally head and shoulders above his opponent, standing at 6 foot 5 compared to Tyson at 5 foot 10.

Still, he was no match for the defending WBA, WBC and IBF champion, who left Biggs bloodied and bruised before sending him crashing to the canvas in round seven. The fight continued but Biggs was knocked down again, leading the referee to halt proceedings and ensure Tyson stretched his record to 32 wins from 32.

1990 - Lakers retire Abdul-Jabbar's jersey

Thirty years ago, the LA Lakers retired the number 33 jersey of Karim Abdul-Jabbar, the man still considered by some to be basketball's greatest.

A six-time NBA champion with the Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks, a winner of six MVP and two Finals MVP awards and 19 times on the All-Star roster, nobody has worn his number 33 for the Lakers since 1990.

2010 - France clinch grand slam

France won their 17th Five/Six Nations title and completed a ninth grand slam after battling to victory over England in Paris.

Les Bleus had powered through the earlier rounds but were made to work hard by England, who dominated the second half after ending the first 12-7 down but could only earn three more points via the boot of Jonny Wilkinson.

They have not won the championship since.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to leave little in the way of live action on the sporting calendar.

Most events have been put on hold or cancelled across the world due to the spread of COVID-19.

There are still some competitions going ahead on Friday, though, and here are five of the best to look forward to.


Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne City - A-League

Australia's top football division continues, albeit with a reduced schedule and games being staged behind closed doors - including both of Friday's matches.

The Mariners will be out to avoid unwanted club history as they host Melbourne City. Alen Stajcic's team are on a nine-match losing run, just one short of their previous worst streak of 10 in a row.

 

Dundalk - horse racing

Horse racing has been suspended in the United Kingdom until the end of April, but Horse Racing Ireland has opted to carry on racing after implementing stringent controls.

Friday's sole meeting will take place at Dundalk, where Cautious Approach, Juliet Rose and Sebs Star are all in action.

Cage Warriors 113 - MMA

Friday's blockbuster will now be held in Manchester after moving from London and is another event being held without spectators in attendance.

Darren Stewart and Bartosz Fabinski meet in the headline fight, while Mason Jones and Joe McColgan will battle it out for the vacant lightweight title.

Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs - NRL

The NRL has introduced a self-isolation programme for its players in a desperate attempt to keep games on.

And that means plenty of focus will be on the grudge match between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs, who will both be looking to maintain winning starts to the season.

 

Western Bulldogs v Collingwood - AFL

Aussie Rules football got under way at an empty MCG on Thursday and the action continues with Western Bulldogs taking on Collingwood Magpies.

The Magpies begin their assault for a record-equalling 16th title - and a first in a decade - against their Melbourne rivals at Docklands Stadium.

The Grand National has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Jockey Club has confirmed.

The decision was taken following updated guidance issued by the United Kingdom government on Monday, which advised against mass gatherings.

Race organisers looked at the possibility of conducting the famous steeplechase, which was scheduled for April 4, behind closed doors but did not consider it a realistic option.

Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward of the Jockey Club, said: "The Grand National Festival was just three weeks away and it's very clear to us it will not be possible for the event to take place. Public health must come first.

"We were working on a plan to stage the Grand National behind closed doors given its importance to the racing industry and beyond, but following the new government measures confirmed this evening to help to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, this is not a viable option.

"I know this is hugely disappointing news for the many people who work in our sport and the many millions who were looking forward to this year's event, but very sadly these are exceptional times and this is the responsible thing to do."

British Horseracing announced on Monday any meetings scheduled in England, Wales and Scotland up until the end of March will take place behind closed doors.

In a surprising turn of events, Supreme Soul has been cleared of having tick virus marker after a recent test was administered.  The horse has been stranded in the United States since December.

Noted trainer Antony ‘Baba’ Nunes has strongly reprimanded the Jamaica Veterinary Services Division for treatment meted out to Triple Crown winner Supreme Soul who remains quarantined in the United States.

Noted trainer Antony ‘Baba’ Nunes has strongly reprimanded the Jamaica Veterinary Services Division for the treatment meted out to Triple Crown winner Supreme Soul who remains quarantined in the United States.

The four-year-old colt headed to the United States late last year for the Caribbean Classic at Gulfstream Park but has been unable to return to Jamaica after testing positive for the tick fever virus.  Based on existing protocol, the Veterinary Services Division has insisted that the horse be treated for the virus in the United States, but with the disease not endemic to that region the drugs need to treat the animal are not readily available.

In the meantime, according to Nunes an email from the USDA stated that the horse had spent more than 44 days straight in a 10 by 10 feet quarantine isolation stall, which does not typically hold animals longer than 15 days.  The trainer believes the action borders on inhumane.

“…If the USDA is telling you that it is inhumane to do that to this animal are you telling me that veterinarians from the country of which this horse was born are saying no you cannot come here, that you do not have a humane bone in your body to worry about this horse mentally and physically,” an irate Nunes told the SportsMax Zone .

This horse represented his country, it’s no fault of his own.  It’s like Usain Bolt going to the Olympics, catching the flu and you tell him he can’t come back home,” he added.

A part of the trainer’s grouse is based on the fact that he believes the tick fever virus is pervasive on the island, with over 50 percent of animals at Caymanas Park carrying markers for the disease.

“For Veterinary Services Division to say that they cannot accept Supreme Soul back into Jamaica makes absolutely no sense.  In fact, if he was to be shipped back to Jamaica he shouldn’t even have to go through quarantine because the truth of the matter is that of the 1200 horses he is going to mix with at Caymanas Park, 1199 of them are already probably carrying the tick fever virus."

According to the trainer, the USDA will not able to get tick fever medicine to treat the horse until around March, by then it could cost approximately $US40,000 to keep the horse in the United States.  At that cost, the trainer believes it could come down to a business decision, which could see the horse euthanized.

“You are putting the owner in a position now where you are saying to him this going to cost you $US40,000 through no fault of yours or the horses and we are going to have to suck it up. No.”

Tiger Roll's bid to secure an unprecedented third successive Grand National win remains on course despite the horse undergoing a procedure.

The nine-year-old had a chip removed from a joint this month and is on box rest, but trainer Gordon Elliott has backed his star turn to be ready for the headline race at Aintree next April.

Tiger Roll matched the feat of Red Rum in making it back-to-back victories at this year's Grand National, but three would mark a historic achievement. 

"The procedure he had went well. He's on box rest until Thursday week, when the bandage will come off and he'll start back walking," said Elliott.

"He'll be walking for three weeks then, all being well, he'll be back cantering after that.

"He was in full fitness and almost ready to run when it happened. It's not ideal, but if it had happened in January or February it would have been a lot worse.

"The Randox Grand National is the plan. Obviously Michael O'Leary owns him and will make the final decision, but in my mind this is the race I've been training him for since last year.

"It's the Grand National, I know what can happen in a Grand National. When you go to Cheltenham there's a lot of pressure, but going to Aintree, it's just great to be there. There's pressure but of a different kind.

"Anything can happen in the National, that's what makes it the race it is, but the build up to the race will be second to none."

Winston Kong’s super mare She’s A Maneater reeled off a majestic stakes record win in Jamaica’s rich Diamond Mile at Caymanas Park on Saturday afternoon to prove herself the island’s best thoroughbred.

Surging to the front coming off the final bend under regular rider Omar Walker, the 3-5 favourite and 2017 horse of the year was unchallenged down the homestretch of the JA$14.5 Million (US$104,000) event and won by five lengths over her previously unbeaten stablemate Stranger Danger (6-5) in a Diamond Mile record one minute 35.20 seconds.

“It was a fantastic performance from a fantastic filly,” said trainer Wayne DaCosta after a remarkable fourth Diamond Mile win in the race’s five-year history.

“As I have been saying, I think she is the best filly, in fact the best horse ever to race at Caymanas Park,” added the 18-time champion DaCosta, whose one-two finish keeps alive his hopes of challenging leader Anthony Nunes for the 2019 Trainers’ title.

After the 2018 Lotto Classic winner Drummer Boy led briefly out of the starting gates, the 5-1 third favourite Toona Ciliata sped through on the inside to lead with Stranger Danger in close attendance along with 99-1 outsider Uncle Vinnie.

Down the backstretch, Toona Ciliata led narrowly from Stranger Danger while She’s A Maneater cruised up on the outside to challenge, with 2019 Triple Crown winner Supreme Soul (9-1) and Sentient (37-1) struggling to handle the Grade 1 pace.

She’s A Maneater quickened to lead by two lengths coming off the final bend as the projected titanic clash between her and Stranger Danger fizzled.

A few cracks of the whip right-handed from six-time champion jockey Walker saw the Natural Selection – Ahwhofah mare speed past the eighth pole in total command, before closing out a polished second Diamond Mile triumph in three years.

“She was so great in the mornings (at exercise) and I was pretty confident, she is in the best shape of her life,” Walker said after his third Diamond Mile victory.

The result was also partial redemption for her disappointing non-participation in last year’s Diamond Mile when she was scratched in a bizarre starting gate incident. With the field almost fully loaded, She’s A Maneater bolted from the gates when she was spooked by the horse beside her Peking Cruz’s fractious behaviour.

She’s A Maneater’s winning time on Saturday smashed by a long way the previous Diamond Mile record of 1:36.40 by Seeking My Dream and gave Walker his third winning ride in the BG&LC/SVL sponsored event.

Vow And Declare upstaged a star-studded international field to win the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday.

In a photo finish at Flemington, the Australian-bred gelding staved off the competition to win the eight-million Australian Dollars race.

Vow And Declare – whose trainer Danny O'Brien described the horse's chances as "a bit of a David and Goliath" task pre-race – crossed the post ahead of Master of Reality, who pipped Prince Of Arran to second place.

Winning jokey Craig Williams said: "I was lucky enough to sit on Vow And Declare. A credit to Danny O'Brien.

"It was a privilege to ride him today. We had a difficult barrier draw. The instructions, we trusted him. We know what we can do.

"Great to be associated with a great horse like this horse. I rode him on debut and Winx won a maiden years ago. He knows he has won and again… I'm so grateful to be given the opportunity."

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