By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
There has been only one horse race in the territory this year and racing plans have literally been washed away.
With the cancellation of the Premier’s Cup, the territory’s biggest horse race following the passage of a Tropical Wave over the territory, Aug 7-8, dumping 17 inches of rain during a 17-hour period causing damage to the Ellis Thomas Downs track surface after a gut between the track and the stands overflowed, BVI Horse Racing Association President Patsy Lake, said that it could take $3 Million or more to repair both the surface and stands.
“From what we have gotten from persons who came prior to look at the track, they know the dimensions and we sent them pictures for them to see the damage, it’s going to take anywhere in the region of $3Million plus,” Lake said. “That’s to put the track back together and to fix the stands. The stands are rotten. When you walk, certain portions of the stands, the rust is falling downstairs where the vendors are.”
Lake added: “The best thing that can happen is for the government to take up the offer that has been sitting on their desk for more than six months, from the investor who will be developing St. Croix and St. Thomas’ tracks to develop ours one time and let’s get a new track and keep going.”
Since the damage to the track surface occurred when the gut overflowed, Lake said Sports Minister Myron Walwyn gave them permission to try and repair by taking up all the sand and stones that have been washed off, to repair a 20 foot area towards the inside rail, for the horses to be able to exercise. She said it is important for the horses to be able to do so, without damaging their feet. Lake said they have paid a backhoe and a truck to try to retrieve the sand and Public Works Director Jeffrey Skelton kindly lent them the grated and a worker to operate it, so now they have the 20 foot area that the horses can train on.
“But, I’m hoping we can move forward from here,” she said. “Everyone is on vacation now so I guess when vacation time is finished, we’ll have some way forward. If the government enter into this agreement, it will provide money for all the other athletes, all of them, not only for the track. It’s a win, win. It’s a golden opportunity.”
Lake said without work being done on the stands, it will be well over $1Million for the work on the track, as there were two areas that were dugout completely. Sand for the resurfacing of the track she noted cannot be sourced locally.
When asked what this will do to horseracing in the territory, Lake said that is what the government has to address.
“I can’t address it,” she stated. “That’s what the government has to address which is the way forward, with this particular sport and other sports because I understand other sports grounds were damaged, maybe not to the extent of the track but there are others who suffered damaged in their areas.”
The next big race scheduled would be Boxing Day races and Lake said she wouldn’t say they won’t happen. She said all things are possible—something she acknowledges is not easy to say. She said so long as the government says they are going to accept the agreement with the company doing the USVI tracks, the people are ready to move in.
“Let us not be left behind, that’s all I’m saying,” Lake stated. “The ball is in the government’s court. All they have to do is kick it and we’re ready to go and I sincerely hope that is what will happen because the people of the country, they need an outlet. Horse racing wouldn’t only be beneficial for horse racing fans alone. It would also be beneficial for other sports in the country.”