Racetrack closure affecting communities… suffering


Racetrack closure affecting communities… suffering

Grooms’ Association president says it is challenging, but people in Gregory Park understand, grooms still caring for horses

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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The community of Gregory Park is known as the racehorse epicentre of Jamaica. It is close to the racetrack, and the majority of grooms, jockeys, trainers, exercise riders, and others connected to the racetrack live in Gregory Park.

President of the Grooms' Association of Jamaica, Fabian White, also lives in Gregory Park and sees first-hand what is happening on the ground.

“Now, with the present closing of the track for competitive racing, it has created an overwhelmingly negative effect that puts economic pressure on everybody who has a connection with the racetrack.

“Most of the sellers, the small people, and others who live in Gregory Park are dependent on the days of racing for sustenance.

“To a large extent, the residents do understand the present situation with the coronavirus, but it is not very nice for them at the current time with very little else to do. They are not earning to provide for their families and themselves and that is worrying.

“So, the closing of the track has had a very, very, very bad effect on a community like Gregory Park and others, it is not very easy for people here to maintain a normal lifestyle as everywhere bars are closed, the shops are closed, the restaurants are closed, almost all businesses are closed.

“Living in the area without racing is an overwhelming situation at present, it is not an easy road to travel, it is difficult, it is awful,” White shared with this publication.

Yet, since the closure of the racetrack plus the directives of the Government in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus, White said there are some positives.

“When the track is closed, residents of say Gregory Park go to their beds very early.

“Then there are fewer people mingling on the road because of the coronavirus situation. The children are mostly staying inside, but you can't forget that we are also under a state of emergency.

“A lot of the young people here depend on the track to earn some money for their existence, and with the track closed, they are finding it difficult.

“For some of our young people going to the track is a form of enjoyment, so with the track closed, there is no enjoyment.

“I am hoping, and I have been going around talking to people, telling them to remain calm, to understand what is happening and to give them a voice in these difficult times,” White shared.

As to members of his association, White offered: “There is great stress now on especially owners to provide for their horses. The hope is that despite the stress, despite the many difficulties we are facing, grooms who still have to look after horses will continue to get their pay,” White offered.

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