By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
On May 1, Lesmore Smith was re-elected BVI Horse Racing Association president, at a time the organization is facing its biggest series of challenges since the improved Ellis Thomas Dows facility opened in 1998 as the Little A. Racetrack.
The floods of August 7, 2017 cancelled the 19th edition of the Premier’s Cup for the first time in history, then on September 6, powerful Hurricane Irma destroyed the grand stand, stables and perimeter fences.
Smith, who has been head of the organization before and owns Top Priority Racing Stables, knows the task at hand and is focused on rebuilding an industry in which he sees lots of potential for growth.
“I’m looking to see if we can keep the sport alive, to see if we can revive horse racing in the BVI and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Smith said. “We know that St. Thomas, St. Croix have a promoter in place but we don’t. We all got damaged from Irma, they’re getting back on stream with their promoter. We don’t have the finances. We know our government is strapped for cash, so a new committee has been elected and we have put together a number of things in place including creating a GoFundMe account, to see if we can get assistance, locally and around the world. We’re also planning a telethon for later this month as well.”
Currently, Smith said stables are being repaired and he has received a number of used poles from the BVI Electricity Corporation, plywood from Digicel and engaged workers to do the job on his own. He said with a number of horse owners, they’re working on weekends. So far six of 20 stables have been repaired. They’re hoping to have all completed by month’s end, then will look at the quarantine barn, to assist USVI horses.
“We’re getting assistance from a number of other persons in terms of removing the grand stands and we’re looking to start this weekend, remove all the debris, so we can get the track back up and running,” Smith explained. “The track surface itself is still in good condition, only the one part that was flooded close to the winner’s circle ahead of the August Festival races, we’re trying to see how best we can get that fixed back.”
Smith said they already have some sand and have begun putting it in place. They have received assistance from Autland Heavy Equipment with a huge sifter and other backhoe operators who will give a hand along with the government’s grader to help level it off.
“Our main challenge is getting a tractor to rake the track and I saw one online in Puerto Rico, made contact with the people and we’re hoping to secure it with a deposit,” he said. “Then see if we can get the funds through donations to purchase it.”
Since being elected president, Smith said he has reached out to the St. Thomas Horse Racing Association and he’s hoping to soon meet with them to open dialogue, set race schedules so there won’t be any conflicts.
He commended former president Patsy Lake and has been in consultation with her on the plans being worked on. As she’s working on restoring her damaged buildings, she has pledged her support where she can.
Plans are also to run the August Festival races which will mark the 20th anniversary of the tack surface.
“We would like to know, that after 20 years, by the help of God, we can still do something to at least bring people together after all that we have gone through with the flooding and hurricanes,” he said. “We are hoping that we can make that happen, but, it can only depend on persons within the community making it a reality for all of us. It’s not about Lesmore. Lesmore is much smaller than horse racing. It’s about a sport we all love, we do enjoy and have family fellowship with. So, it’s not about me. It’s about us trying to get things back together. I think if we take a holistic approach, noting is impossible.”
Smith is joined on the horse racing executive by vice president, Karen Aaron; treasurer, Elieen Parsons; secretary, Rosalind Leonard; racing Secretary, Carl Thomas; public relations officer, Xavyrna Samuels; Horse Owners representative, Kyle Abraham.