Nation e-Edition

Grooms rise to dress challenge

DAPPER GROOMS. (From left) in a pose-off on Gold Cup day are Neville Walcott, groom for Areutalkintome, Dennis Price (Zaltarr) and Richard ‘Allan Baje’ Prescod.

By LINDON YARDE | Wed, March 19, 2014 - 12:05 AM

Team Po Po, relatively young owners in the sport of kings, have thrown down the gauntlet to all grooms in Barbados.

Team Po Po, who owned the likes of Devil’s Khandy and A.P. Vincero, have given grooms the opportunity to enhance their image in the sport.

They have been offering incentives since November 16 to the best dressed groom per race and the best turned out horse, with the grand prize going to the groom adjudged the best dressed that day.

Severely criticised for their appearance in the parade ring on race days – wearing slippers, armhole shirts and three-quarters pants – several grooms have responded to the challenge.

Acknowledging the gesture by Team Po Po, the stakeholders of horse racing have also joined forces and extended the competition to the 2014 racing season.

The dress code that applies to the Incitatus Lounge, the Grand Stand and the owners and trainers stand should also apply to the parade ring where most of the interest is paid by fans when looking to make their final selections.

Examples of grooms recognising the importance of their role are exhibited at the Royal Ascot meet in Britain, the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders Cup in the United States and the Dubai Gold Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

Incentives offered have ranged from dinner for two, hardware appliances, spa certificates and monetary vouchers. This initiative was given a rousing start on the first day of the third racing season in the Courtesy Breeders’ Classic on the Barbados Winter Jockeys’ Challenge Raceday.

Much to the surprise of the public, the grooms approached the parade ring resplendently attired in the latest three-piece suits, bringing back memories of Christmas morning in Queen’s Park.

It was an instant hit.

For too long, the grooms have been overlooked. Yet no one spends more time with the equines than the ones who are charged with the responsibility of cleaning the stalls and feeding, bathing and walking the animals, in addition to preparing them for their morning exercise.

Another key role all grooms play is reporting to the trainer any abnormalities with the horse – swelling, lameness and limitations in movements, just to name a few, that occur from time to time.

Not all grooms are participating in the enhancement programme but it is surely a step in the right direction. However, in order to give the presentations a more uniformed look, I suggest that all other grooms be attired in sponsored bibs clearly marked with the horses’ numbers.

This would be for the benefit of visitors accustomed to a more professional approach.

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