Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 14 February 2016





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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 Instructor.

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.



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