By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua Turf Club (ATC), Neil Cochrane, is optimistic that planned upgrades at the Cassada Gardens Race Track will be completed in time for the estimated return of racing in December this year.
Cochrane, who said he would step down from the post should he be elected as the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) representative for All Saints East & St Luke in the next general elections, outlined what the ongoing phase of the upgrades to the facility entails.
“Phase one will be new rails, a new running surface and we will basically have proper drainage this time around so you don’t have all of the issues when racing and rain comes and so we are on track. We have been raising the funds and it has been tough,” he said.
“Dr Dwayne Thwaites and myself in particular, have been knocking on doors and we have been working the phones and we have made some significant strides and we are looking to make payments for the harrow which is going to maintain the track surface at a professional standard and for the rails and the likes.”
The longtime horse owner and trainer said the turf club has already engaged the services of a professional regarding the proper re-laying of the surface.
“We were able to sit back and speak with the professional people who are working with us to make sure we have everything in alignment, so we’re pretty optimistic that come December, phase one would have been completed and we’re waiting for permission to race. We have to have a surface that is less clay and a little more sand and so the professional track consultant or builder, he’s going to be here to make sure that all of the engineering is done properly and so on,” the horse racing boss said.
The work, Cochrane revealed, will however cost the turf club a pretty penny.
“The harrow in itself is about US $7,500 used ad that has to be shipped from Ohio down to Antigua that does not include the shipping cost. If you estimate another US $3,000 for that, then that is now US $10,000. The rails in itself, we are probably going to pay about $15,000to US $20,000.00 on that as well, plus the shipping cost and then we need to have approximately 4,000 tons of material to re-lay the race track so it is probably going to cost us anywhere in the region of about $175,000 to $200,000 to get this done,” he said.
There had been no races held at the Cassada Gardens Race Track in over a year, the last race being the final leg of the Antigua Triple Crown Series, the Governor General’s Cup, held in June 2019.