By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua Turf Club (ATC), Neil Cochrane, has defended the body against criticism over its prolonged hiatus which predates the arrival of the Covid-19 virus here in March 2020.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo sports show, Cochrane acknowledged that it has been over two years since the body last held races at the Cassada Garden’s Racetrack but adds that the many issues plaguing the facility are well documented.
“The primary thing that has been holding us up and, let it be clear, it’s getting the sand if you appreciate, even island wide. Our sand source is Barbuda and if you check all the sand sources right now in relation to Barbuda then you would get the feedback that it has been a little difficult in getting sand out of Barbuda at the moment,” he said.
“We would have made a deposit on our sand from since May last year. We have not been able to get it as yet [because] there were some miscommunications between ourselves and council. Everything is now, I believe, clear so we are waiting on one thousand tons of sand,” he added.
The condition of the track’s surface came under the microscope back in 2019 while rotting wood that formed part of the rails around the track had also been a source of concern for the club.
Cochrane said that although the pandemic has caused further delays in the sport’s competitive return, it has also resulted in some positives.
“You could not have raced in the pandemic so we have not been trying to race outside of saying, look, government we’re ready to race so can we get permission to race? We have never gotten that permission,” he said.
“However, when we look at the overall scheme of things, one of the consistent requirements is funding and funding with which we have been doing pretty well because of the pandemic and we have had funding come in to allow us to purchase new rails, to purchase a racetrack conditioner which is really helping us right now and to be able to get other things done and aligned as we prepare the new design with the engineers and everyone,” Cochrane added.
The Turf Club was forced to postpone last Sunday’s planned return to racing after works being carried out at the venue were delayed for a number of reasons. They have set a new date of February 27 for the hosting of the meet.