The signature August Races will be even more exciting now that the Ellis Thomas Downs will be fitted for the first time with a professional starting gate. The new and needed improvement was announced by the BVI Horse Owners Association on 12 July during a brief unveiling ceremony.
President of the BVI Horse Owners Association, Mrs. Patsy Lake is credited for the important acquisition. In explaining the need for the new gate Mrs. Lake pointed out that the Downs has always utilized a training gate that has caused some issues in the past. She also thanked the Association members for working hard to acquire the new equipment, and announced that funds were still being raised to cover other costs associated with the equipment.
“I am grateful to everyone…It is our pleasure to have this gate arrive here today. We are all excited about it. This is history in the making because it’s the first set of professional racing gates that have come to the BVI,” Mrs. Lake said.
The issues that were caused by the training gate were disclosed by Mrs. Karen Aaron, Vice-President of the Association. Mrs. Aaron announced that some of the issues were noted during international races: “We have been operating with a training gate since the Ellis Thomas Downs came into effect and we have been experiencing problems from time to time when we have international, inter-island races. So this is now added security and comfort for the horse owners, jockeys and horses. So when we start the races, it will be ok.”
“We had horses come from St. Thomas and one time when we started the race, the race went on and unfortunately, it was an unofficial race because it was a fault start due to the gate…So we now have the gate and we hope that there will be no problems going forward,” the Vice President explained.
Mrs. Aaron also noted that the new gate arrived in time for the upcoming signature August Tuesday Festival Races.
Minister for Education and Culture Hon. Myron Walwyn praised the Association on its acquisition and noted that horseracing is very important to the Virgin Islands culture: “The government recognizes that. Of course we will be making our contribution to the cost of this gate…Ask members of the community in supporting us because horse racing is a BVI thing, it is something that we cherish. I am very glad that the committee has been honouring persons who have been contributing to horse racing for many years,” the Minister stated.