HomeSportsAntonio Álvarez: "Venezuelan horse racing is experiencing its best moment"

Antonio Álvarez: “Venezuelan horse racing is experiencing its best moment”

For “El Potro” the equestrian activity goes beyond being a game of stake and chance; It is an industry that generates thousands of jobs and a passion

Antonio “El Potro” Álvarez, a well-known figure in sports, music and politics, has been serving since December 2018 as national superintendent of Equestrian Activities.

A position that has given him great satisfaction due to his love of horses since he was very young, but that has also earned him detractors who see El Potro as an obstacle to their business.

However, Antonio Álvarez ignores the unfounded criticism and is fully involved, and he succeeded, in cleaning up the exciting world of horses.

—What is the difference between the racecourse you found and the current one?

-Thanks to Líder and Últimas Noticias for allowing me to reach their high audiences through their media. Telling you what we found, the before and after, has not been solely part of Antonio Álvarez. I thank President Nicolás Maduro, who delegated to me the responsibility and trust to reach this beautiful infrastructure that generates thousands and thousands of direct and indirect jobs. A great industry, which is transversal and which productively supports an entire country. That beyond being a game of stake and chance, it is a great passion, it is a great sport that includes multiple professionals, athletes, trainers, riders, veterinarians, the world of food and medicine for equines. It is a great industry that is experiencing a great moment, which is in the passion and in the veins of the Venezuelan.

—Was it difficult to adapt?

to an institution at a time when the country was going through serious problems?

—We came across humble people who accompanied us working day after day. The groom, the laborer, those people with unskilled labor that we manage to bring together within this very important space. That we received them in a country situation that had been hit by sanctions and blockades at an economic level. We had to adapt to the new times that we Venezuelans were facing at that time, with a reduced herd and we achieved it. The National Institute of Racecourses is an industry that provides great social support to surrounding communities such as El Valle, Coche and Las Mayas. An example of this is our contribution in equipment and medical supplies to the Coche hospital.

Antonio Álvarez not only experienced moments of pressure when he assumed the direction of La Rinconada in 2018. After the intense rains that fell in Caracas in 2014, when many victims were refugees in the stands of the INH, Potro Álvarez was assigned the task of relocating all the families who were experiencing this difficult situation.

—They were very hard times, but thanks to the support of President Nicolás Maduro, all the families were relocated to decent homes. The difficult part came later and was to reverse the material damage suffered by the racecourse facilities, but we did it and today we have some of the best racecourses in the world.

Another of the hard moments during Antonio Álvarez's management at the head of the INH was the covid-19 pandemic.

—We lived through difficult days, but we got ahead. Months behind closed doors and with maximum security. All employees were treated and vaccinated, as were their families. The Poliedro became a public care center where we treated thousands of cases and the most serious were referred to hospitals or private clinics. Always with the task of cutting the chain of contagion.

—At that time there were no races, people were discouraged because they had lost one of their main attractions, which were horses on weekends. I asked President Maduro for support, to give me the confidence not to completely close the activity, because for us to start it again it was going to be very uphill. Horses are athletes, every day they go out to training, if you lose a week, fifteen days, a month, it is difficult for the horse to recover its conditions, and returning to the field once again and giving the same show costs them at least six months.

The presidential order was for maximum biosecurity, wearing a mask, disinfecting, constantly testing. He gave us all the support. The Poliedro functioned and cared for the sick under impeccable conditions. Behind closed doors, we vaccinated all the workers, all the people who lived at the racecourse to be able to hold the races every weekend. We achieved it, that was what gave us the strength to continue on the right path, the right path, to create greater awareness. It was fundamental, all the people, men and women of the institution, gave their lives to move this forward and we achieved it despite operating for two and a half years behind closed doors.

—After the storm has passed,

what came next

Venezuelan horse racing?

—After the recovery of this gigantic work, we managed to bring the Caribbean Classic to Venezuela once again in 2022. It had not been achieved for a few years and here you see once again that our country is great. Great riders visited us, like the Ortiz brothers, Irad and José Luis. Great exponents of world equestrianism gave us their trust. The respect and affection that they have for us in international equestrianism is great. We have Javier José Castellano winning a Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Park and a Junior Alvarado triumphing in the Saudi Cup, the richest race in the world. And I'm going to give you the scoop, because you have been very consistent and are a fundamental part of what, through your networks and through your truth, transmit the reality of La Rinconada and for that reason you deserve my love and respect. This year we will stage the Caribbean Classic again in La Rinconada and we are going to recognize Castellano. It is also dedicated to Gustavo Delgado, to Junior himself and to all that amount of
e Venezuelans who have raised the name of our equestrian industry. We are going to have bigger surprises. We also confirm the Ortiz brothers. We have had permanent communication by phone and the order to come to this beautiful country and run. They say that nowhere in the world have they felt what they experienced in Caracas when they visited us in 2022, the affection of the fans. That makes a difference and that's where you see what envy is like when you do it well.

Here it is appropriate to note that Irad Ortiz, considered the best rider in the world, taught Li Tre Fratelli in the Comparison Classic, Templario in the Imported Invitational Cup and Philomena in the Caribbean Lady Cup, in which were his first triumphs in Venezuela and with tears on his cheeks he stated: "It is a dream come true, I feel very happy with the victories achieved, I congratulate the Venezuelan equestrian fans and the organizers of the event."

—Did horse racing recover?

your credibility?

—We have had to go through great adversity in this great industry. Success is not measured by triumphs, it is measured by how many times you rose as a person or as an industry. A pandemic couldn't, nor could political controversies. There came a time when we did not have the herd, farms were closed due to the issue of insecurity, due to high maintenance costs. When I got here the change was stamped at 10 dollars. On the 5th and 6th today we are reaching $500.000, that means that for us there is credibility. There is a job that is being valued throughout the town. If horse racing lived a golden age in Venezuela, I have no hesitation in expressing that we are now living in a titanium age. The fans once again enjoyed the live broadcasts with multiple cameras open with the shots so that the same fan can judge, who can have an opinion, good, bad or average. We even placed a drone so that they have better vision and can express a better
opinion through social networks. There are people who don't know about horses and see a trend on Twitter and get carried away by what they read. I have always called for battles of ideas, but not for that verbal massacre that is seen on social networks. That's like shooting first and finding out later, furthermore, without basis, without foundation. If there is constructive criticism, welcome, but I see and observe that those who attack it are for a political position and I tell them, well, welcome, may God bless you. Controversies do not only occur here in Venezuela, it is a continuous issue that is being experienced in world politics and that we do not escape.

—What are Antonio Álvarez's future plans?

—In the future my goal is to complete my horse at the three racetracks for the three days of racing. Valencia is growing with all its strength and we are working on improving its facilities. It is an active racecourse where races are held every fortnight. Now, we have a longer process with the Santa Rita racecourse. It is something that I have in the short-term future, because my vision is to hand over the position as president of the institute with the three racetracks in optimal conditions, generating work and serving an important horse population. I am also going to hit hard at illegality, at all those who in some way or another benefit from the industry without contributing anything and generating comments to try to disqualify or detract from the work of 700 workers, men and women, who day after day They work in the spaces of this administration so that this racecourse functions correctly and generates resources that also result in social work for the workers and the community.
ity with donations of ambulances and wheelchairs, among other benefits. Let them attack me and not my people. This is my job and I have to do that. We must disseminate the achievements so that the people see what President Maduro is doing and how far we are going.

—What message do you have for Venezuelan youth in these times?

—To that generation that is coming in, to that number of young people who are going to exercise their right to vote for the first time, I tell them that we are a large and democratic country, that there are many young people who are going to exercise their right to vote for the first time, that the only way to solve the country's problems is through voting for the future of Venezuelan youth. May we put aside hatred and resentment on social networks. That the majority of the Venezuelan people come out to exercise their right to vote and choose the person who is the candidate of their preference. We have a beautiful country, a free, democratic National Electoral Council that is envied in many parts of the world, serious, transparent, and that on July 28 I call for elections because this year there will be elections.

—How do you evaluate the country issue?

—We went through very difficult and adverse times during the last ten years. In Venezuela today, the world recognizes our resilience, that ability to overcome adversity and overcome the most critical moments. We have great men, in science, in business, in music, my brothers who have reached the Major Leagues, who have made this town great. Children of Bolívar, Ribas, Zamora, who gave their lives and blood to give us the most precious asset that we have achieved in the last 200 years, which is our freedom, our sovereignty, our independence.

—We cannot overlook your career as a baseball player.

—From a young age I made the decision that I was going to take care of my family. Dad and mom were important with their support and thanks to them I understood that if you want to be someone in life you must make decisions. Dad was always attentive and from a very young age he told me I believe in you. He wondered what was happening with my boy, where my boy was, where my boy was going and that was what marked my decision to be a baseball player. He admired Andrés Galarraga and Omar Vizquel. I wanted to be a baseball player and I achieved it. I signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Caracas Lions.

—Where does the number 56 come from?

—Since I was little, my dad would seal his box and take me to the racetrack. We attended Grandstand C and I ran the whole way watching the horses. From there I started with the theme of the number 56 because of the game of 5 and 6. The number identifies us a lot. In order for you to be able to keep your number on a team you have to be a horse. I also had the opportunity to play with all eight teams here in Venezuela and that is a record that is very difficult to beat.

-Venezuela epicenter of horse racing?

Latin and Caribbean?

—We have such an interesting and productive vision and that is for us to become an epicenter of horse racing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Have horses from Argentina and Chile and give a boost to national breeding. Another first is that we are going to have guest personalities who are very influential in the equestrian world worldwide. They have seen here an important geographical space for horse riding. Venezuela is a country that can provide facilities to all those who want to invest in the country with their horses. We are still here and in the equestrian world they know what we are achieving in Venezuela. Before leaving this world my old man told me 'worry about the day when they don't criticize you'.

Antonio Álvarez said goodbye but not before leaving a reflection for the equestrian country.

—We are going to provide facilities to all those people who believe in horse racing, owners of farms, horses, riders, trainers, workers and administrative staff. I am grateful, happy and content with everything that is happening in equestrian sports, because this is the truth, the truth that speaks to them. I believe that lies always have short legs, the truths are eternal, they are infinite, and that is reality. We are still here, talking for the sake of talking without accepting the reality of what you do or what you speak is looking to the past. I avoid giving interviews to tell the world what we are doing because it is visible. My goal is to leave a racecourse fully operational, clean and an example of a country that is moving towards better directions.

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