Horsemanship kicks out Sri Lankan ‘friendships’
Foreign duo enlisted to fight nepotism, corruption
and cheating as new turf club takes the lead that other sports are
averse to follow:
Cricket, rugby, football, athletics and nearly every sport that
provides a haven for corruption in Sri Lanka have been further exposed
as one of the country’s oldest entities with a new identity, the Royal
Turf Club, procured the services of two foreigners in a bid to steer it
away from ruination and disgrace.
Wayne Wood (left) and Sinclair Marshall admire a horse
(Picture by Saman Mendis)
It marked the first time that a sports organisation in Sri Lanka,
which offers a breeding ground for shady activities in the name of
fair-play, has signed up foreigners to run its dealings and sees it as
the only way to ensure a clean system devoid of personal alliances that
creates the curse of all evil.
Wayne Wood and Sinclair Marshall, the former an Australian and the
latter an Anglo Indian, hit the saddle this week and pledged to lead a
thorough overhaul of horse racing that was out of bounds to the common
enthusiast as the rich and powerful held sway and indulged in
behind-the-scene rot to satisfy their vanity.
“We have already written down the rules. This is a must for integrity
in racing and making it attractive to Sri Lankans and foreigners”, said
Wood who will function as the Royal Turf Club’s Chief Executive Officer
and Chairman of Stipendiary Stewards as he made his first public
declaration after taking over the mantle to clean up the stables.
Wood was Australia’s Racing Achiever of the Year and is looked at as
a fair and fearless adjudicator while Marshall will virtually be his
right hand man as the two set about to live up to their reputation as
international specialists in the thoroughbred horse racing industry.
Marshall is a veteran of 4000 races accounting for nearly a thousand
wins including eight derbies and will function as Thoroughbred Riding
The Sunday Observer learns that the presence of the two men has
already ruffled a few feathers and Wood has made it clear he will brook
no nonsense and have no truck with miscreants.
Horse racing in Sri Lanka has not reached the corruption levels found
in cricket and football, but last year it gained notoriety over
allegations of cheating, horse doping and cover-ups. At least six horses
are also reported to have been poisoned to death over rival jealousy.
Neither was anything probed nor heads rolled and the entry of Wood
and Marshall is being viewed as a buffer to ensure repetitions of
cheating and corruption will be kept out at least for the minimum
two-year period that the duo will call the shots.
Wood said that horses, their owners and jockeys will be kept under
surveillance on race days and no stone will be left unturned in
eradicating unscrupulous behavior.
“If anyone breaks the rules I can assure you that he will be punished
and inquiries will be conducted at the highest level”, Wood warned.
“We have a great idea of racing in the eyes of all participants. We
have to enhance the image of thoroughbred racing that will appeal to
overseas enthusiasts and seek horses from anywhere in the world”.
Stableowner Suranjith Premadasa the president of the Royal Turf Club
who lived through adverse times will also face the test as will be his
secretary Lucille Dahanayake, treasurer Nishitha Rupasinghe and a
Committee comprising Ranjith Dahanayake, Nihara Jayatilleke and
Sudharshana Deshapriya in the new set-up. “We needed to start something
properly and get good people to support us”, said Lucille Dahanayake on
the enlisting of Wood and Marshall. “We have to get things right to
bring in investments for the country and its tourism”.
The overhaul of horse racing, Dahanayake said, will also for the
first time put in place an anti-doping system where the animals will be
tested and everybody entitled to ride or field a horse.
Sri Lanka’s horse racing calendar commences in March and runs until
December in Nuwara Eliya where the course and infrastructures have also
undergone a facelift more than a century and a half after the sport was
introduced by Englishman John Baker.