By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
August Festival horse races were held for the first time in six years, featuring a five memorial race card that honored horse owners, trainers and investors. The races attracted hundreds of British and U. S. Virgin Islands horse racing fans at the Ellis Thomas Downs.
A flood, followed by two hurricanes and a 2-year pandemic, had affected the event since the last August Festival race in 2016.
BVI Horse Racing Association president Lesmore Smith, said it was a challenge financially, emotionally and otherwise in getting the races off.
“I’m thankful for the people that put in the time and effort to restore it,” he said. “We took the sand off the track. We sifted it, replaced it and did all of that to ensure this happened.”
Making its debut in the One Mile feature in honor of Rodney “Mileage” Simmonds—as the other races we all over 7 Furlongs—St. Thomas’ Come On Venezuela with Angel Moreno in the irons, laid off the pace set by Courage and Honor on the rail, with Jose Hernandez in the saddle and One Way To Fame in tow. Come On Venezuela made his move with a half mile left then went on to a four lengths victory over Courage And Honor, in 1 minute 45.2 in the $9,000 race.
“Man, this is the easiest race I’m ever going to win for the year,” said Laquan Charleswell. “I knew he would beat them. They aren’t fit—fitness is the key. So I’m going to enjoy the win. Honestly speaking, we only had the horse for two weeks and limited his training in St. Thomas and the team—it’s not just me—the team, they did everything they had to do. Everybody filled in their spot and I can tell you one thing. Once you have a team together, they can’t beat you. And if they beat you, it’s because their team came better than us. Once we stick together, we’ll always win.”
In what turned out to be a match race in the 7 Furlongs Ronnie “Biggy” ‘Animal Hodge Classic after debutant Long On Luck scratched, Angel Moreno rode St. Thomas’ PuttingonaShow to a runaway victory over Jose Hernandez on, Astro Ride in 1:31.3.
Owner Arturo Watlington said that his horse, as well as Tulean which won the last Premier’s Cup in 2016 and Don Don, which has never run in the Virgin Islands, have been training in Puerto Rico since the end of November. “We expected him to win and he did,” Watlington said, noting he had four races coming in. “He won the last time he was here also. Even though he’s an old horse, he keeps himself in shape.”
Winston Hirst Jr. bounced back from an opening loss to Hernandez, with Disseration in its debut, taking the Elliton “Parboy” Hodge Memorial race in 1:31.3, to even his record at 1-1. Hernandez followed on fellow debutants Fascinating Beauty and Kenneth Pillot on Clave de do.
Hernandez got his second victory when he rode Romantic Henry to a five lengths victory over Keep The Commish, after both horses had an early duel, before Keep The Commish had no response to Romantic Henry’s charge.
The card opened with Hernandez aboard debutant Shine N Jam, taking a nine lengths victory the first 7 Furlongs in 1:30.4 over Nadiae’s Image with Winston Hurst Jr.