By Neto Baptiste
Following what could only be described as a lengthy two-year hiatus, the sport of horse racing is set for a return in February.
This is according to President of the Antigua Turf Club (ATC), Neil Cochrane, who said a number of the horses are already in preparation for the sport’s return meet.
“It is our intention to start back racing at the Cassada Gardens on the 13th of February so that is just about five weeks away, give or take a day or two but the horses have begun to prepare at a higher level and we are doing some repairs to the rails at the facility and some clean up as we get ready for racing. It has been a long time,” he said.
There has been no racing in Antigua since June, 2019 owing to issues at the country’s lone facility, the Cassada Garden’s Race Track, which were then compounded by the COVID 19 virus. Several attempts to bring the sport back from a competitive standpoint have however, not materialized.
Cochrane believes the body will meet in the February 13 date giving that the event will be held with much of the current set-up still in place.
“Work in relation to the whole refurbishing of the racetrack, the new racing surface and so on is on hold. We are going to be racing on the old surface but we are going to be updating the existing rails. We are not going to be using the rails that we purchased for the new operation so those are still in the containers but we had a significant challenge as it relates to the sand and getting the sand out of Barbuda so hat has been our hold up,” he said.
Horses, according to the turf boss, have been actively preparing for the sport’s return.
“The horses at the track are in pretty decent shape and some grooms have been taking the horses to the beach almost every day and we actually began training on the track for some time now anyways. It takes typically four weeks to prepare a horse for a race and we did have a general meeting some time in December in which we discussed where we were and where we wanted to go, and it did not make sense to not reactivate the sport based on the circumstances I gave earlier with the sand and the delay, so we decided we wanted to race,” Cochrane said.
There has been ongoing work at the Cassada Gardens facility as the turf club seeks to improve both the track surface and the general surroundings of the facility.