The legacy of racing has deep root, mostly originating from a background of the British planters and ultimately from the troops, as the cavalry horsemen loved competing with the plantocracy. Over 200 years we owed much to the Royal Engineers for the beautiful Garrison Savannah at Hastings, as they were responsible for draining the swampland and mosquitoridden surrounds. Over the years beautiful grassland replaced the swamps, and everyone now enjoys multiple sports, including the horse racing around the Garrison.
The Garrison ambience continues to have a military presence, although the Government and private business now own most of it. We can still see the red brick buildings that feature the impressive Guard House and famous clock tower, Drill Hall, St. Ann’s Fort, the former Military Hospital, the Barbados Museum, and the old home of the Royal Engineers at Shot Hall close to the Yacht Club. Engineers are also responsible for the underground tunnels under the Garrison area. The former US President George Washington once stayed in a house beside the Garrison. The whole place is steeped in history!
Many visitors and locals love the gentle pace of jogging and walking safely in the inside of the track, but there were much lively exchanges in the past. The first Derby took place in 1845, and at the time it seemed everyone wanted to flock to the Garrison. Derby Days were gala occasions and the affluent ladies were resplendent with glamorous attire and colourful hats. In 1865 the first regional cricket match took place within the Track, and in the 1880s polo games were introduced, mainly from the British Cavalry. The Polo Club was formed in 1884, and shared with other sporting pursuits until 1966 when it found a new home at Holder’ Estate. Football from the Barbados Defence Force and the Rugby Club also share space within the Track, and various sporting pursuits also take place including kite flying, basketball and netball.
Racing on the island
The Barbados Turf Club was formed in 1905, and is responsible for much of the hub in local racing these days. There are three seasons during the year, mostly on Saturday afternoons, but by far the biggest gala occasions are the Sandy Lane Gold Cup in early March and the Massy United Insurance Derby in August. CEO Rosette Peirce works with the Directors to orchestrate a plethora of races, and sponsors. The Gold Cup dates back to 1982 and Sandy Lane have been the sponsors since 1997. Of course, the Sandy Lane Hotel is renowned all over the world with its magnificent aura and facilities. Over BBD$214,000 is the purse available for the Gold Cup winner competing over 1,800 metres. Horses have come from throughout the Caribbean and North America and the goal is to win by all owners, trainers, jockeys and grooms. It barely lasts one minute and 50 seconds, but the excitement is without precedent.
Who’s who in Gold Cup folklore
JE Carmacho was the first owner to win the Gold Cup in 1982 owner with Cyril Arneaud his trainer and Irish jockey Declan Gillespie on board However, Sir David Seale, the President of the Barbados Turf Club, has since been credited with 7 wins including one of his great winners Sandford Prince. Sally Arbib won with Blast of Storm three times and a splendid statue rests within the parade ring. Four jockeys can claim four wins at this event. Venice Richards, better known for his success with Sandford Prince, two decades ago, although Jono Jones is also closely aligned to another famous horse Blast of Storm, securing four successive victories. Jalon Samuels also has 4 wins, but the greatest jockey is Patrick “Bowmel” Husbands, a veteran with over 3,000 wins in Barbados and Canada. Records are made to be broken, but Patrick Husbands may be immortal based on his tremendous success. We should also recognize former jockey Liz Deane, as the first female trainer in 2007. US owner Ken and Sarah Ramsey love Barbados, and may add to his three successes, while the budding trainer Robert Peirce with 4 wins may well eclipse the legendary trainer WC ‘Bill’ Marshall who holds with 7 wins. Sadly, Bill is no longer with us, neither is the legendary “Scobie”Breasley.
The Sandy Lane Gold Cup Festival
This event involves a variety of activities, but the culmination is in the Saturday afternoon just after 4-30pm. The Race Day usually has ten races, and brings thousands of locals and visitors. TV crews and presenters cover the event for broadcasting all over the world and the pomp and ceremony is supported with a build up from Calypsonian Mac Fingall, local musicians, National Anthems, regimental bands, and the splendid parade. Thousands flock to the entertainment and flood the inside track to play games, visit the many stalls and eat Bajan delicacies. Just before the start you can’t get a mouse in to watch this historic race. The Race creates a great buzz and the grandstands, and hospitality boxes are packed, but once the Starter raises his flag to begin all sanity is lost for barely two minutes!
2019 Winners
We all love a fairytale to accompany a winner and the 2019 Sandy Lane Gold Cup winner fitted the bill. As everyone knew the Parravicino family lost some special people during the year, but obviously they were in spirit at the Garrison. Trainer Roger Parravicino romped home with the grey mare Celestial Storm with jockey Rasheed Hughes on board at a whooping 14-1 return on the tote. The owners were within the CN Parravicino family. What a lovely story! Infrared was second under Anderson Throtman and third the favourite Night Prowler under Jalon Samuel looking for the elusive third winner. Last August winner at the Massy United Derby was Gandalf with Jalon Samuel on board from Brave Star. You have to be there at Racing in the Garrison!