Coronavirus: Virtual Grand National won by Potters Corner

By Sports Desk April 04, 2020

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.

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    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!

  • Broke and alone - Master Jockey Venice Richards should not have died the way he did Broke and alone - Master Jockey Venice Richards should not have died the way he did

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    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.

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    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.

  • On this day in sport: Mets boss dies, Red Rum hat-trick, MLS strike over, India glory On this day in sport: Mets boss dies, Red Rum hat-trick, MLS strike over, India glory

    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.

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