By Neto Baptiste
Horse owner and a member of the horse racing fraternity here in Antigua, Dr Dwayne Thwaites, is hoping for a return to competitive horse racing in the not too distant future.
In an interview with Observer, Thwaites revealed that the Antigua Turf Club (ATC) is currently looking at ways in which they could make the environment at the Cassada Gardens Race Track 100 percent safe for both jockeys and patrons before approaching the relevant authorities regarding a possible return to action.
“We have been looking at how we could social distance and get back into racing. We’ve had multiple meetings regarding what we are going to be doing. Our plan is to discuss with Daryll Matthew as to how we can move forward in getting the social distancing together. I think that with the way horse racing is set up, we should be able to get people separating six feet apart,” he said.
“We would also have to get the jockeys tested for the virus. I think the horses are safe because we are a good distance apart and we don’t need to socialise as much as we need to and it is not a big business here in Antigua where we can say, run without the public attendance but we can social distance, we can test,” he added.
There has been no racing at the track in over a year with the final leg of the Antigua Triple Crown Series, the Governor General’s Cup held late June 2019, the last competitive race at the facility.
Thwaites said that although conditions of the track may have accounted for a lengthy period of inactivity at the track, he credited the Covid-19 pandemic as the main reason for recent delays in a return to competition.
The turf club, he said, has used the downtime to make improvements at the facility.
“We are now presently, with the Antigua Turf Club, looking at resurfacing the track. We are looking at inner rails and we have already gotten the quotes for the rails and we are also looking at getting a harrow and conditioner. We are also planning on resurfacing, with sand, the track itself and so we’re hopeful that by the end of August into September we can get all these things done. We are going to set up a drainage area for the water to drain so that whether or not it rains, we should be able to run,” he said.
Thwaites, who owns popular horses like Scrumpum and Mulatto, said the situation has also been challenging at a personal level.
“We are going through some trying times; it’s a difficult situation but with the help of God and with faith, we are hoping and the animals are very lively and ready. One of the things is that I am greatful for the rest because one of my horses in Scrumpum had an injury, which has been lingering and since the break because of Covid it has been better. We have a couple of new local horses that are coming out, so yes, the financial impact is difficult but it has always been that way for horse racing in Antigua,” he said.
President of the turf club, Neil Cochrane, recently revealed that the body has engaged in talks with a potential investor regarding the possible upgrading of the track and its surroundings.