February 2001 | Archive | View images | © Wayne Tippetts
reportage Long Shot in the fast track

Caymanas Park Race Track, Jamaica

Caymanas Park in Kingston is Jamaica's only horse racing track. Racing started there in 1959 but there is a history of horse racing in Jamaica which goes back to the early 19th. By 1967, several smaller tracks could be found dotted around the island

The 1970s and 80s were lean years for the racing industry but following a string of changes, Caymanas Park race track has become more popular than ever, attracting crowds of up to 12,500. The core of its success is the use of which allows off-track betting all over Jamaica.

Wayne Tippets started photographing at Caymanas Park in the1980's and recently went back after a break of 10 years. He was not interested in the actual racing itself, which is much the same as anywhere else. It was the characters at the track which made the atmosphere special for him - the young boys who collect empty bottles for a few Jamaican dollars, the punters, the couples, the owners, the jockeys and the trainers.

Of the many characters to be found at Caymanas park race track, the man known as shady, must rank as the most colourful and cheeky. He gives winning tips on every horse in the race to different people and collects money from the jubilant winner!

Jamaica's reggae heyday began in the 1960s, songs were written eulogising certain racehorses. The popular horse Long Shot died during a race while hugging the rail down the last straight, inspiring the hit song 'Long Shot kicked the bucket'. In 1988, a young Jamaican beauty queen made the presentation for the victory of the champion horse, Viceroy. Many faces were pressed to the fence attempting to witness this intriguing scene. One man kept on trying to gain the lady's attention: "Pssst, pssst, pssst, Miss Jamaica," he persisted, making a sound like air released from a tyre. Eventually, as the young woman turned round and caught the man's eye, he said, "Miss Jamaica, Viceroy is prettier than you."