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One On One
WILLIAM CHIN-SEE - Keeping racing on track at Caymanas
CHAIRMAN of Caymanas Track Limited (CTL) since 2001, William Chin-See has presided over a board that has kept racing at Caymanas Park on track in difficult times.
When Finance Minister Dr. Omar Davies called on the previous board chaired by Howard Hamilton to resign in the latter part of 2001, he replaced it with a board devoid of genuine racing people. Many in the industry felt this was a backward move, but the Chin-See board has proven them wrong and today it enjoys the support of the vast majority of racing personnel.
The going, however, has not always been smooth. But Chin-See has shown a capacity to tackle problems head on despite having to work with limited resources at times.
His fellow directors are Horace Davidson, Lincoln 'Happy' Sutherland, Kelvin Roberts, Byron McDonald, Don Glanville and Murna Morgan. All were reappointed in 2004.
Chin-See, a Queen's Counsel, was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1963. He is not new to public life, having served as chairman of the high profile Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC) from 1994-2000. The 70-year-old father of three is also a member of the Commission for Prevention of Corruption.
One and One caught up with the KC Old Boy between races in the Director's Room at Caymanas Park last Saturday.
Q: When was your board appointed?
Chin-See: December 1, 2001.
Q: What was it like in the initial stages?
A: There were obstacles. We didn't have the confidence nor support of racing personnel and it took time to win them over. You have to remember that the previous board had such well known racing personalities as Howard Hamilton, Laurence Heffes and Ivan 'Bobby' Clarke who had many years of service to the industry as owners, breeders and administrators. Hamilton, in particular, was twice chairman of the promoting company and there was a perception in many quarters that people like him, who had a particular love for the sport no longer at the helm, things would not progress.
Q: Did you prove them wrong?
A: Well, we tried our best and the results for the most part are encouraging.
Q: What do you think is the foremost achievement?
A: It's hard to pinpoint one specific thing. But over the years I think this board can take pride in the fact that we created harmony among the various interest groups in racing.
Q: Outside of that, what are some of the more tangible achievements?
A: There are many ... this board has increased purse money by approximately 80 per cent and although we would have liked to offer more, it is still a major increase.
Q: But people like Owners' Association president Laurence Heffes would say this is inadequate. How would you respond to that?
A: We have tried our best and if we had the resources to offer more, the $50 million we provided recently to supplement purses and increase appearance money by 100 per cent, would be greater. We just have to work with what we can afford.
Q: What else?
A: We also persuaded the government to remove the seven per cent tax on gross sales as that regime had the effect of creating serious financial difficulties for the company. This moved from seven down to two per cent in August 2003. As a result our sales have shown continued upward movement and we are no longer in an overdraft situation with the bank. CTL continues to be profitable over the past two years, this has come as a result of being proactive.
Q: Enlighten me?
A: We had to take decisions like discontinuing Friday racing some years ago and cutting back on the number of unprofitable mid-week meets as well ... we took a decision to double the guaranteed minimum in both the Pick-9 and the Super-6 and this has had the desired effect. We have upgraded the roadway in top stables to alleviate the dust nuisance, upgraded the wells in the stable area, has put in place a horse ambulance, not to mention keeping the place looking clean and presentable and we recently did extensive work on the safety rails around the track.
Q: What about the track itself?
A: We undertook the upgrading and proper maintenance of the racing surface. I should also mention that the duty waiver on imported horses didn't happen by chance. We had to make serious representations to the Ministry of Finance with persuasive arguments in order to improve the bloodstock. Another task we successfully undertook was to bring the OTBs under greater efficiency.
Q: The pending divestment of Caymanas Park by the government has no doubt put a damper on future plans, what's your take on divestment?
A: I cannot respond publicly to that. I am chairman of the promoting company appointed by the government. This is the same government through its agency the NIBJ is currently in negotiations with a 'preferred bidder' for the possible takeover of Caymanas Park.
Q: Care to disclose some of the future plans?
A: We plan to look at seating on the second floor with a view of creating an exclusive reserved area (enclosed) over the finishing line. There is also plans to install an elevator from the ground floor of the Clubstand to the North Lounge which could have the effect of bringing back to the track the senior citizens. This is estimated to cost $18 million, but we felt it was a bit exorbitant. In any case, we have been advised by the NIBJ not to proceed as this could affect negotiations taking place re the divestment process. All this is dependant on whether or not divestment becomes a reality.
Q: Finally, there is perception among racing personnel and the public alike that CTL is not effectively promoting the racing product in the tradition of say Chris Armond. What's your response?
A: What can I say to that? We did a record $40 million on Digicel Derby Day.
- Orville Clarke