HORSE racing fans champing at the bit to witness some live action will have to wait a bit longer to return to Santa Rosa Park. The Arima Race Club's (ARC) invitation to fans for Saturday's race day was shut down, after a meeting on Friday morning featuring the Betting Levy Board, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the ARC.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon and ARC president Robert Bernard were among those who attended.
After the Prime Minister announced last Saturday that membership clubs were allowed to open at 50 per cent, the ARC began preparations to welcome fans at Santa Rosa Park at 50 per cent capacity.
At a covid19 media briefing, Dr Rowley said, “(Concerning) casinos, cinemas, theatres and members clubs a fair amount of work has been done with the business community who have committed to be very diligent in managing this particular situation because they are indoors, we are coming out very cautiously here at a 50 per cent capacity.”
Being a members club, the ARC interpreted Rowley's statement to mean they were permitted to operate.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi confirmed to Newsday in a WhatsApp message, "It's not open to the public."
Santa Rosa Park has a capacity of approximately 2,000 people, therefore 1,000 would have been allowed to enter if the ARC was given the permission to welcome fans.
ARC president Robert Bernard had told Newsday on Thursday, “We are allowed to have fans. Actually, horse racing is an industry as opposed to a sport, that’s why we fall under the Ministry of Trade as opposed to the Ministry of Sport.”
He added, “We are aware of it since Monday actually once the regulations were published…the regulations are very clear.”
Prior to Friday’s meeting, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh told Newsday he had to confirm if fans were permitted.
“I will have to seek a legal opinion. I don’t make these decisions on the fly…I have to consult with legal,” Deyalsingh said on Tuesday.
A media release by the ARC on Friday said, “The ARC outlined the (covid19) protocols to be implemented for the day’s racing, however, the ministers expressed the wish that the club continue to maintain its control of persons as obtained during the earlier periods of the pandemic. The ARC therefore agreed to refrain from allowing patrons at the track.”
The release added that fans can bet on the races at the club’s off track betting outlets.
The ARC apologised for “any inconvenience caused.”
In an interview with Newsday following the meeting with the ministers, Bernard said, “We understand the Government’s concern. We certainly willing to work with them and comply with their wishes, but of course we are very, very disappointed we couldn’t have the day, because with no patrons our betting handle is terribly affected.”
Horse racing at Santa Rosa Park is a unique situation as it is a betting office, but also a sporting event.
The sport was allowed to resume on June 27 without fans.
Only trainers, owners, jockeys and those who make the race day possible will be allowed at Santa Rosa Park. Races will begin at 12.35 pm, on Saturday.
Up to press time on Friday, ARC television ads were running welcoming fans to racing on Saturday. A TV sportscast on Friday evening also reported that the Santa Rosa Park was open to fans.