Adapted from Sporting Barbados Magazine - http://www.sportingbarbados.com/
Horse racing has been the Sport of Kings for many years on this special island! When Sporting Barbados was first published in the late nineties, racing at the Garrison Savannah was one of the most popular sports.
Over the last 20 years the Barbados Turf Club has gone through some rough patches, but today it continues to employ many and provide pleasure year round for locals and visitors alike. The story is an all too familiar one.
The BTC, like many sporting organisations, has had it’s financial challenges. One of the first organisations to be given a license to operate a lottery, there was hope that this would have been a much-needed lifeline for the struggling BTC in the nineties. However, this failed to materialize as a hefty tax was imposed on the sale of lottery tickets making it almost impossible for it to be profitable. Adding to the problem was another lottery coming on line which swept the market!
After negotiations over the years, thankfully the debt owed by the BTC from the tax was absorbed by the Government and a joint venture with the competing lottery meant everyone could work together and come out as winners. The threat to an industry that employs thousands was abated!
With some much needed funds, quickly the Barbados Turf Club got to work. New PVC flexible rails were installed, replacing the old metal ones that for many years had been a danger to the jockeys and horses. Improvements were being made all round but another danger was on the horizon!
Tropical Storm Tomas caused a set back in late October 2010. Damaging the administration office, the Grandstand and the Field Stand, the BTC was yet again facing major issues. For almost two years the dedicated staff at the BTC worked in temporary offices until 2013 when they moved into their new premises. The opportunity was also taken to update the seating in the grandstand with individual seats and to put on a new roof. The Field stand was not replaced but it’s understood that plans are afoot for an all-inclusive entertainment/racing facility.
The BTC also entered the modern era by introducing an electronic display timing system, replacing the old manual system, which also shows the fractions. New LED outdoor screens giving all the jockey information etc, showing odds, live racing, replays and payments were also installed. From a betting perspective, the minimum bet on race days which was $2 (Bdos) was reduced to $1. In the trifecta, superfecta, Hi-5 and Pick-4 Bets one can now play them at 50 cents, giving punters the opportunity to play more horses in their bets.
Sports Tourism is high on the list for the BTC! The Sandy Lane Gold Cup and the Massy United Derby are two of the most prestigious races on the annual calendar of events and the Gold Cup especially gets world wide coverage going into hundreds of millions of homes world wide, attracting breeders and top owners from overseas. Visitors travel far and wide to take in the parade and excitement of this fabulous race day. With a packed Grandstand and outfield, the Sandy Lane Gold Cup is one of the leading sporting events on the island and not to be missed the first Saturday of every March. Over the past few years, a festival has been built up around this race including Broadway to Barbados shows and Polo matches. The Gold Cup has even arrived in Barbados by the prestigious British Airways Concorde to lots of pomp and ceremony. Other popular race days include the Diamonds International Boxing Day at the Races, the Ansa McAl Racing Festival and the Barbados International Jockey Challenge in November. Despite many of our top jockeys going off to the US and Canada to ride, horse racing in Barbados continues to hold its own. High on the agenda is night racing and the plans are in place to have this proceed once the BTC has been given the go ahead. This wonderful, colourful and highly energetic sport has carved a niche in this beautiful island. Many Barbadians love the races and will do all they can to ensure this brilliant sport of Kings remains as majestic as ever for all to enjoy.