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

By Lance Whittaker April 03, 2020
Venice 'Pappy Richards Venice 'Pappy Richards

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.

Related items

  • Cricket's financial model is broken, but there is no easy fix Cricket's financial model is broken, but there is no easy fix

    The West Indies will most likely leave for the United Kingdom (UK) in about a week from today to play England in the first bio-secure Test series in history in July.

    The teams will play and whether they win the series or not, England will come away with virtually all the revenues generated from the series. For the West Indies, the story will be significantly different.

    Come July 1, the West Indies players and all Cricket West Indies (CWI) staff, will be taking a temporary 50 per cent salary cut.

    However, they are not alone. In April, England’s male and female players took a 20 per cent pay cut as the pandemic began to take hold in the UK forcing the postponement of the West Indies’ visit, which was initially scheduled for June.

    The thing is, on this tour other than match fees, CWI does not really earn anything. Under this dispensation, wherein the regional players are going to be guinea pigs for the way cricket could be played for the immediate future, they and CWI should be receiving extra compensation.

    In fact, pandemic or not, visiting teams need to get something from away series. Without an opponent, the home team has no content for their broadcast partners.

    In boxing, for example, should promoters be able to put together a fight between Mike Tyson and me, we would all agree that Tyson would command the bulk of the revenue. After all, he is who they would come to see. However, a reasonable argument could be made that I should be paid fairly for having the daylights knocked out of me.

    It definitely takes two to tango.

    A couple of years ago, under the Dave Cameron presidency, CWI proposed changes to the current model of wealth distribution in world cricket but those were rejected as being unworkable.

    Correctly citing that competitive balance is critical to the appeal of the sport, Cameron argued that: “Broadcasters and viewers are not willing to see international cricket because they are getting to see their stars anyway in the IPL or CPL. As a result, international rights have been devalued, except in the big market, which is India, England and Australia. So, 20 per cent of each series should go to the visiting teams.”

    The problem with this proposal is that given what the big teams would have to pay over at the end of a tour, there would not be equitable reciprocation when their teams visit the smaller-market teams rendering it impractical.

    Mumbai Mirror writer Vijay Tagore explains it like this. In a column published on May 11, he said Star pays India about U$10 million for every international match. If the West Indies plays six matches on tour, then they would earn US$12million for the tour. When India tours the West Indies, India would earn much less from their 20 per cent take.

    Under the current status quo, the International Cricket Council (ICC) generates income from the tournaments it organizes, like the Cricket World Cup. Most of that money goes out to its members.

    So, for example, sponsorship and television rights of the World Cup brought in over US$1.6 billion between 2007 and 2015. Sponsorship and membership subscriptions also generate a few extra million.

    However, the ICC gets no income from Test matches, One Day International and Twenty20 Internationals. In this scenario, the host country gets the money earned from its broadcast partners and sponsorship as well as gate receipts.

    A breakdown of the money distributed from the ICC shows that for the period 2016 to 2023, based on forecasted revenues and costs, the BCCI will receive US$293 million across the eight-year cycle, ECB (England) US$143 million, Zimbabwe Cricket US$94 million and the remaining seven Full Members, including the West Indies, US$132 million each.

    Associate members will receive US$280m.

    For the CWI that equates to US$16.5 a year. In addition, CWI will generate money from broadcasts of home series. However, not every home series makes ‘good money’. Based on my conversations with CWI CEO Johnny Grave, CWI only makes money when England and India tour the West Indies.

    What that means is that when teams like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe visit, CWI loses money.

    According to an ICC Paper submitted by CWI in October 2018: The revenue is inextricably linked to the nature of the tours hosted in a member country. It is also linked to the existence of a host broadcaster to exploit media revenues.

    “Media values for members vary: the West Indies does not have a host broadcaster, mainly because of the size of its market.”

    According to the paper, in 2008 the West Indies revenue was US$19.6m. In 2009, revenue jumped to US$48 and then in 2010, it fell to US$24.2 million. Media rights in 2017 amounted to US$22million but fell precipitously to US$987,000 by the end of the financial year for 2018.

    Meanwhile, player salaries remain constant, money goes into grassroots programmes, player development, tournament match fees and salaries, coaches and coaching development, as well as support for the territorial boards. In bad years, these costs easily exceed any revenue generated.

    The current model is simply unsustainable but solutions are hard to come by. In the Caribbean, sponsorship is hard to come by. Stadia remain empty because the West Indies does not win consistently enough to bring the crowds back, and for the most part, the ‘stars’ don’t play in regional competitions meaning fans stay away.

    Meanwhile, the peaks and troughs in earnings against the costs associated with what is required to maintain a competitive international cricket programme, demonstrates in part why there needs to be a better way; why there needs to be a more equitable way to distribute money generated from bilateral series.

    For the smaller market teams, it amounts to a hand-to-mouth existence that keeps them poor and uncompetitive. And frankly, that’s simply not cricket.

     

     

     

     

  • Arthur Wint should be more than a footnote to the Jamaican people Arthur Wint should be more than a footnote to the Jamaican people

    Had he been alive, Dr Arthur Wint would have celebrated 100 years on planet earth today and what a wonderful celebration that would have been for a man who had accomplished so much.

  • JFF has some fixing to do but Bailey should know better JFF has some fixing to do but Bailey should know better

    Leon Bailey is undoubtedly the most successful player in the recent history of Jamaica’s football and there may be some truth to some of the ‘charges’ he recently levelled at the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), however, lambasting your national organization is a no-no.

    I do not want to get into the wrongs or rights of the statements, however, the JFF’s history is replete with players of varying levels of professional experience complaining about some of the very same things Bailey seems to take umbrage with.

    However, each time that a player has made his feelings public, I have thought to myself, there is a better way to do this.

    I do not believe the JFF wants to get into a battle of words with a player and have rightly sought to remind Mr Bailey of his professional responsibilities with a ‘gag order’.

    I put gag order in quotes because I believe that no such order will be given to Bailey, but that the JFF is attempting to publicly make it known that the organization would not be putting up with that kind of behaviour.

    I have heard Mr Bailey’s agent, Craig Butler, in defence of his client, which is his job really, say he supports the statements and believes the player has a right to them.

    I agree.

    But controlling sports teams, especially national teams, is a funny thing.

    It is not like running an organization with employees who have contracts and are firable, which once done legally, has very little impact on the organization, even in the case of a good employee.

    Let us say, that the JFF reached out to Bailey quietly and asked him what the issues were and sought to find common ground.

    Here is what I fear would happen.

    Now, players in growing numbers start believing that they can just say what they feel, regardless of their platform when doing so.

    That, just like the chopping and changing that Butler and Bailey speak about, will have a deleterious effect on team building.

    For example, one can look at the French team that imploded at the 2010 World Cup under famous former French player, Raymond Domenech.

    It is safe to say the players did not want Domenech leading them anymore and went through a sort of revolt which Zinedine Zidane, arguably the country’s greatest player, foreshadowing the implosion by saying the coach had lost the dressing room.

    Theodore Whitmore is, as far as I am aware, respected by his players, but how long will that last if public criticisms of his knowledge and/or competence as a coach are questioned openly without a response?

    If the JFF had not responded, Whitmore would be well on his way to losing that dressing room.

    Playing for a coach means having the confidence that he knows what he is doing, even if you don’t agree with his methodologies.

    A team is not the players and then the administration and coach, an addendum. The team is all of the above.

    This means Whitmore is part of that team and one of the most important parts in the success of that team is trust.

    You have to trust your coach and public comments disparaging his methods do not engender trust.

    The JFF, on the other hand, have to fix the years of mistrust between themselves and players by earnestly reaching out to them. Letting them know if there are financial problems that make it difficult to pay them, if they are having trouble getting games, whatever is an issue that if not communicated properly, could be taken in the wrong way. In other words, the JFF needs to understand that it is part of the team as well and comments by president Michael Ricketts that the JFF cannot cause the team to be eliminated from World Cup qualifications suggests the head of the organization does not see himself as part of the team.

    The JFF is part of the team, win, lose or draw.

    Not being able to kick the ball into the goal or make a tackle that saves one has nothing to do with being part of the team and the JFF boss and all future ‘bosses’ need to begin to see themselves as part of the team.

    That way, whatever the way forward, Jamaica’s football will tackle it as a team.

     

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.