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5th April 1998

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Nuwara Eliya horse racing in 'hot pursuit'

By Bhahi Sampanthan

THE much antici pated annual horse- racing competition for thoroughbreds, cross breds and ponies will be conducted by the Sri Lanka Turf Club for the seasonal holidays in Nuwara Eliya on April 5, 12, 14 and 17, commencing at 9:30 a.m. Among many prominent dignitaries will be Governor Stanley Tillekaratne, the Mayor of Nuwara Eliya, Bandula Seneviratne and M. Sathasivam MP.

The Sunday Times learnt that this year many sponsors were willing to come forward to ensure the smooth running of the competition. Mr. E.W. Balasuriya, Jagath Sumathipala, and E.J. de Soyza have all pledged to donate Rs. 50,000 for the success of this event. Also, Union Assurance have agreed to insure all jockeys taking part, and to donate a Union Assurance Cup. Ceylon Breweries will be the other sponsor for the forthcoming horse-racing competition.

Horse-racing in Sri Lanka

Usually regarded as the leisure activities of Kings and courtiers, the sport was brought to Sri Lanka by the British. They constructed a couple of racecourses around the country, out of which, the Nuwara Eliya racecourse is the only existing one today. Many have been taken over by homeless people and desperate land seekers. The current state of affairs immensely worried an active member of the Sri Lanka Turf Club.

Prior to the press conference held to notify the start of the seasonal racing competitions last Wednesday, the Honorary Secretary of the Turf Club explicated their difficulties in an exclusive interview to The Sunday Times.

Mr. Raja Sinnathuray stressed that the annual competition which frequently attracts thousands of people is on the verge of extinction, due to several factors. He added that unless sweeping regulations are brought into effect to counter the current crisis, the sport will probably see its end in Sri Lanka.

"We have managed to organise this competition annually, but we strongly feel that year after year it is becoming extremely difficult to find sponsors to assist us in conducting the event. It all boils down to the lack of enthusiasm in the country. The sponsors need to be convinced. Having a few race meets in a calendar year will not woo sponsors, because their money is at risk".

Reason for the lack of horse-racing

After having learnt that there is insufficient horse-racing in Sri Lanka, it was necessary to understand the reasons behind them. When Mr. Sinnathuray was asked to elaborate on this issue, he said, "Several racecourses constructed by the British have been taken over. The racecourse at Boossa in Galle, has also been taken over. The obvious one which strikes the mind is the one at Reid Avenue in Colombo. Due to the lack of courses, we have been forced to make do with the picturesque racecourse in Nuwara Eliya.

The racecourse in Nuwara Eliya is an ideal one, due to the excellent climatic conditions which prevail there throughout the year. However, one course is not enough.

We have made several appeals to the government to allocate land for the construction of courses, but todate we have not heard from them.

Mr. Sinnathuray noted that in the past several people flocked to the horse-racing spectacle during the season. "Nuwara Eliya, obviously, is the centre of attraction for many local and foreign tourists.

When the horse-racing season is on, it is an added attraction for the holiday-makers. It is saddening to note the decrease of support nowadays, and that is why we are striving to redress the situation.

Recent incidents at Nuwara Eliya racecourse

Mr. Sinnathuray pointed out to The Sunday Times that several negative incidents had taken place at the Nuwara Eliya racecourse, which continued to hinder their valiant efforts to promote the sport. He said, "numerous shanties are being put up by homeless individuals in the middle of the racecourse, which is obviously detrimental to the run of the sport. We have to frequently go to the Police to get them evicted, but after some time they make their way back.

Also, the dumping of garbage near the Grandstand has been on the ascendancy despite numerous requests to refrain from it. The entire area is infested with flies, which pose tremendous health hazards".

Mr. Sinnathuray said that maintaining the course is extremely expensive, and with added destruction to the course, it proves to be unmanageable. "Horse-racing is a dying sport. If we don't give it a filip, we will never be able to bring back its popularity to its prestine glory.

Several assets belonging to the Turf Club have also been stolen from the premises in Nuwara Eliya.

Promoting horse-racing in Sri Lanka

The forthcoming competition in Nuwara Eliya was possible due to the timely assistance of many sponsors. "If we did not get the assistance of our sponsors, I don't think we would have been able to conduct this year's event. I am extremely thankful to them.

Several foreign collaborators have voiced their interest in 're-introducing' horse-racing to Sri Lanka, with modern facilities.

However, they are reluctant to finalise matters, due to the uncertainty of the sport in this country. We have communicated with the Malaysians, who had approached us to set up horse-racing projects here. They have asked us to guarantee the continuation of the sport in Sri Lanka. It is difficult to convince them because we feel that we may not get the necessary support to ensure the sport's success.

Sri Lankan Jockeys

During the interview with the Secretary of the Turf Club, The Sunday Times learnt about the scope for jockeys in Sri Lanka. "We had talented and experienced jockeys in Sri Lanka many years ago, but due to the low profile of the sport nowadays, jockeys living in the Nuwara Eliya area have chosen pastures anew, and have gone to Dubai. Prospects are good for horse-racing in Sri Lanka, but without proper planning, and co-ordination, it would be difficult for the sport to make a comeback".

The Media

Mr. Sinnathuray noted that the media had given satisfactory coverage of horse-racing in Sri Lanka. He agreed that the media had helped the Club enhance its image, and had there been frequent competitions, the media would have given full priority to the event.

He urged the two forms of media in Sri Lanka to help reconstruct the image of horse-racing in the country. "Newspapers and television should join hand with us to help put horse-racing on its feet again. The media has a crucial role to play in re-building the image of the sport".

Features of the forthcoming competition

When asked to comment on what horse-racing fans can expect in this year's meet, Mr. Sinnathuray said, " There will be renewed impetus to this year's racing, with many new owners entering their horses. Successful crossbreeding has again produced horses similar in size to the Arabs of yesteryear, and will make this season's races a memorable one.

Among the many trophies and prizes this year, are the Ahmed Mahir Didi Cup, Sunquick Cup, Sumathi/Sporting Star Cup, Union Assurance Cup, Nescafe Breeders' Cup, Sri Lanka Printers' Cup, Laxapathiya Cup, E.L.F. de Soysa Cup, Mount Lavinia Cup and the Grand Hotel Cup. The Sunday Times learnt that 'Yes FM' have secured exclusive rights to broadcast the entire competition. Also, they will be sponsoring the Mayor's Cup (12th) and the Union Assurance Cup. The Governor's Cup will be held on April 14

Weaver weaves a magic spell in the 'Lincoln' Handicap

By Ismail Khan

Jason Weaver the hard riding jockey with the devil's punch wove a magic spell at Doncaster Saturday last booting home the winner of the Worthington Lincoln Handicap, the first major handicap of the season aboard Hunters of Brora who burst through a maze of horses near the line to pip them on the post, that is all of the 23 horses who took part in the race.

Trained by J. Bethell the 8-year-old gelding, who had todate amassed £ 86,938 as stake money in his career winning only 4 races in his 35 run sortie and being placed 9 times most of them in big handicaps very competitive indeed, Hunters of Brora off a rating of 110 stuck to his task gamely and held off King of Tunes ridden by Ray Cochrane by a neck in a cliff-hanger finish which had the throng at the course and those watching the race on television on their toes. It was a finish worth the name of the event.

Run over the straight course of Northern England's sprawling racecourse Doncaster the Lincolnshire Handicap saw 23 horses facing the starter with Rock Falcon a late withdrawal. As they broke off most of them were in a hurry to dictate terms with Saifan, Solar Storm, Gulf Shaadi being prominent and Jason Weaver on Hunters of Brora lying handy. Hundred metres from home as the pressure was applied King of Tunes and Right Wing were fighting it out with Hunters of Brora catching them up on the outside. Fifty metres from home the 'Hunter' inched his way to the front and with Jason Weaver at his best beat the "King" lunging forward to have the day by a neck. Right Wing finished third while Sharp Rebuff finished fourth. It was a worthy finish to a great handicap. And to boot Jason Weaver sent signals to other trainers that he is one of the leading freelance riders in the business and anyone who needs his services could have them, of course taking into consideration his priorities. Hunters Of Brora the winner was backed down from 22/1 to 16/1 at the off at the course a cut down of 6 points. That was a pointer.

The day of the Lincoln began with B. Rothwell's Roses Treasure hammering the opener with young R. Winston riding his hardest to keep the the mare on the go to peg off Perugino Bay by a head. This was opening salvo for thrillers and no less than four races were fought out tooth and nail being photo finishes.

The other event which brought the house down at Doncaster, the Town Moor course was the fourth race where MONAASIB ridden by Kevin Darley beat Cretan Gift by a neck after a pulsating duel in the last 100 metres or so. Darley is another rider to keep in mind this term as he too is a free lance having only a handful of priorities. Tedburrow finished third in this event.

The final race the curtain downer at Doncaster on the Lincoln day saw another roaring finish no less than four horses fighting out another photo finish in which EPSOM CYCLONE ridden by Michael Hills turned up trumps from The Downtown Fox and Dil.

Two hundred metres from home it was anybody's race but M. Hills on B. Hills trained EPSOM CYCLONE had that extra punch in the end which made the difference. It was a fitting finale to an exciting day of horse racing and that too the day of the Lincolnshire Handicap. It will be difficult to forget it for a long time to come.

I will be scorned by racing enthusiasts if I don't comment on the decent mile event, the second race at Doncaster on the Lincoln Saturday. It was the Maneline Solocomb Grand for A Groom Award Stakes and the winner was SCORNED ridden by Stuart Whitworth and trained by Ian Balding. Scorned going out joint favourite streaked out to the front a furlong out and pulled away to win by eight long looking lengths from Libra Star. The son of Selkirk should be capable of further improvement said his trainer.

Ian Balding it is reported is contemplating a step up in grade for him. Scorned may be good enough even in Group races this term in England.

Dubai World Cup

Godolphin underlined the strength of its older horse brigade with victories for STOWAWAY, ALLIED FORCES and ANNUS Mirabilis at the Dubai World Cup meeting at Nad Al Sheba, Dubai Saturday last.

Dubai World Cup being the centre of attraction all eyes were on the Frankie Dettori ridden Intikhab in the race but ANNUS MIRABILIS ridden by American jocke

y G. Stevens made all to secure a stable one-two-three in the Dubai Duty Free. Intikhab finished 2nd and Fly To The Stars 3rd.

The result augured well for the S. Bin Suroor team with Sheikh Mohammed hoping a much better year that 1997 when Godophin captured a Group One event in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

Army Service Corps takes rugby title

Sri Lanka Army Service Corps won the Army Inter-Unit Rugby title by 15 points to 10 at the Army Grounds, Galle Face.

Sgt. Razak and Captain M. Abeysinghe scored a try each for the winner's while Lt. Colten goaled the try and kicked a penalty. For the losers Sgt. Medawaka scored both tries. Service Corps won this title in 1994, 95 and 97 too.

S. Jamaldeen and Tony Amith coached the winning team.

Army Commander Lt. General Rohan de S.Daluwatta was the chief guest and gave away the awards.

President's vs Mahanama 10th limited-over today

The 10th limited overs encounter between President's College, Rajagiriya, and Mahanama will be played today at the Premadasa International Stadium.

Mahanama will be led by Samath Rajapaksa while President's College will be captained by Charith Jayasekera.

Mahanama have won five matches of the series while President's College have won four.The two teams will be picked from the following.


Standing left to right: Dinesh Bandara, Damith Ratnayake, Laksreen Dilshan, Kaniskha Perera, Yasuntha Gamlath, Dammika Perera, Oraneeth Jinasena, Lakshitha Sajeeva, Chanaka Fernando, Niroshan Samarajeewa, Sasith Rajapaksa, Lasith Saumada, Romesh Jayasinghe, Suresh Somasiri, Pubudu Fernando. (Seated left to right) Imal Asela, Deepal Piyatissa (Master in Charge). Pubudu Sathyapala, K.K.Rathnadasa (Principal), Samath Rajapak-sa, Jayalath Aponso (Coach), Gihan Fernando.

President's College:-

Seated left to right: Praneeth Chamara, N.B.Sam-son (Master in Charge), Charith Jayasekera, M.Abey-singhe (Principal), Amila Gunawardena, T.K.Palitha (Coach), Sampath Kumara.

Standing left to right first row:- Prabath Perera, Viswajith Samapriya, Sameera Vitharana, Chanaka Chandrasekera, Dammika Suriyarachchi, Ravindra Sampath, Sandul Lakmal.

Standing second row left to right:- Prabashitha Caldera, Gayan Kankanamge, Madu-sanka Abeysena, Poorna Munasinghe, Tharaka Hewa-manna, Mohammed Alfassy.

Viraj and Pushpa crowned king and queen of the sea

K.Viraj Jayasekera and R. Puspha Chandani of Sri Devananda MV Ambalan-goda were crowned as the six-mile sea swim king and queen at the Kinross 34th annual swim held at Wellawatta.

Jayasekera finished the course in 2 hours 31 minutes 8 seconds, followed by school mates K.K.V.Ajith Kumara in 2 hours 32 minutes 16 seconds, P.H.Nuwan Dilruk in 2 hours 38 minutes 15 seconds, Nuwan Mendis 2 hours 42 minutes 50 seconds.

The other placings were: 5th P.K.B.G.N.Kumara (Kinross) 2 hours 42 minutes 4 seconds; 6th-Lahiru Mudalige (St Joseph's) 2 hours 56 minutes 30 seconds; 7th-Prabath Harendra (Sri Devananda) 2 hours 59 minutes 54 seconds; 8th-L.G.Dilshan Peiris (Sri Devananda) 3 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds; 9th-S.M.Ranasinghe (Air Force) 3 hours 5 minutes 12 seconds; 10th-S.A. Roshan Indika(Sri Devananda) 3 hours 8 minutes 29 seconds.

Women: R.Pushpa Chandani (Sri Devananda) 3 hours 6 minutes 29 seconds; Ronita Wimalasuriya (Sri Devananda) 3 hours 14 minutes 8 seconds; D.W.Parina (Polhena Aquatic Club Matara) 3 hours 54 minutes.

Viraj Jayasekara was awarded the Mike Sirimanne Challenge Cup while Puspha Chandani was awarded the John Roche Challenge Cup.

Sri Devananda with 167 points emerged overall champions and carried away the Turab Jafferjee Challenge Cup followed by Kinross with 51 points and St Joseph's third with 49 points.

The Maharajah trophy awarded to the Youngest swimmer was won by Rohitha Amarasinghe of Kinross while the eldest swimmers award was won by J.A.S. Jayakody of the Air Force and was awarded the Tissa Ariyaratne Trophy.

The Principal of Sri Devananda, Dharmasiri Ginige was the chief guest and gave away the awards.

The Test drubbings in SA: Some food for thought

By Bernie Wijesekera

Sri Lanka gained Test status in 1982. Since then the Lankans are yet to beat Australia, the West Indies and S. Africa at Test level, home or abroad.

The defeat suffered by Sri Lanka in the second Test against the Proteas by six wickets at Centurion Park, inside four days was the worst suffered todate, after leading by 103 runs in the first innings.

S. A. fielded a team without Lance Klusener, Brian McMillan, Pat Symcox, Jonty Rhodes and Fannie Villiers (who just retired at the age of 33) after helping them to defeat the Pakistanis to draw the series.

To add to that list, they were without Shaun Pollock who was injured and didn't bowl in the Lankan second innings. It was a new-look SA side with a couple of newcomers that put Sri Lanka cricket to shame.

In some quarters the Lankan batting line-up was tagged as the best in the world. They must have been dreaming when they found that our batsmen crashed like nine pins to an attack that only had Allan Donald as the frontline bowler. They gave a feeble batting performance after earning a first innings lead. They lacked the technique, temperament and determination to stay at the wicket and play long innings, to consolidate the advantage gained by our bowlers. It could not even be tagged as a one-day batting display.

Even Arjuna Ranatunga admitted in an interview after the game that it was a poor batting display which put our image to shame. We must now focus our attention to the one-day series where Pakistan, too will be in the fray. It's no picnic. The Proteas will be at their best with the return of thier seasoned players.

What was the tour management doing.? What was their ploy after leading by 103 runs to win this match and square the series, instead of going down meekly and losing two-nil? If a personality like Abu Fuard was the tour manager, the players would have shuddered to display such indisciplined batting. They would have got such a dressing down! Abu commanded that much respect.

Mr. Fuard now a senior vice-president of the newly elected Cricket Board management should now divert his attention to overcome this malady sans politics.

The talking point among past cricketers and among the club circles, how could the selectors have picked a lad like Nuwan Zoysa as fit to play in the deciding Test match? He was out of cricket for three months in the domestic scene due to injury. He may have passed the fitness test. Did he even get a side game to warm-up? He is not a Wasim Akram or a Glen McGrath. But has the makings of a good bowler with proper training and experience.

Ranjit Fernando, when interviewed by the MTV with S. A. lunch time score on 90 for 1 said: There is no saving the match. We must bowl 'em out. The spinners must not be taxed. Murali' was taxed to the maximum.

In the end of it he got hammered by Hansie Cronje to be remembered for a life -time with three sixes-in a-row. Cronje's mercurial knock of 82 will be hard to forget by the Lankans. With Cronje at the middle the Lankan bowling was made to look a cart horse attack.

This two-nil defeat gives much food for thought for the newly elected BCCSL management. They must put aside petty issues and work as one unit, and even getting the assistance from those experienced past cricketers from outside, to uplift Sri Lanka's image at Test level from this ongoing scrapheap with a better professional outlook on and off the field.

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