By Esther Durand, BVI News Staff
After about a 15-month hiatus due to the havoc caused by the 2017 natural disasters, the British Virgin Islands will once again host its annual Boxing Day races.
Twenty-one horses are set to compete in five races at the Sea Cow’s Bay-based Ellis Thomas Downs, the BVI Horse Owners Association has said.
Association president Lesmore Smith told BVI News on Monday that nine racehorses from the territory will compete with 12 horses from the neighbouring United States Virgin Islands on December 26.
“We are ready for the Boxing Day races … all the issues have been rectified,” said Smith while referring to the August Tuesday races which had to be cancelled last-minute.
The association had a challenge in shipping the horses from the US mainland and, despite efforts to host the August Tuesday races, the events had to be cancelled.
Those said horses arrived in the territory roughly three months ago and have been training for the upcoming competition, Smith said.
Each of the five races will have a $5,000 purse.
These prize monies, which collectively total $25,000, was not sponsored and the association will be banking on proceeds of the gate and the food and beverage sales to compensate the competitors.
“We are aware that it is kind of tough on the government right now so we didn’t call upon them [for sponsorship]. So we are asking everybody to come down to help us make up the purses,” he said.
He said the fee to enter will be reduced from $15 to $10 for adults this time around. Children under 12 years will enter free.
He further said the association is hopeful that the target will be attained as long as persons show up in their numbers to support the event. However, he assured that participants that the prize monies will be paid.
The homeowners’ president also urged patrons to walk with their umbrellas on the day of the event as the few tents that will be available will not be able to provide shelter for everyone.
Smith, in the meantime, said the two horse stables at the downs are complete and are able to accommodate 40 horses.
Furthermore, the grounds are now debris-free, the grandstand — although uncovered — is now cleared of broken iron and is able to seat a sizeable amount of patrons.
“We are doing everything to ensure that it meets the required standards,” Smith said.
He said the only issue that remains is the providing a roof for the grandstand area. That, Smith said, will be undertaken by the government as “it is beyond the Association’s reach”.
While remaining tight-lipped on the overall cost of the scope of works, Smith said the undertaking has been a ‘huge’ and thanked those who assisted.
Tentatively, the territory can expect a monthly race for the next three to four months. Afterwards, the territory will compete alternatively between the USVI and the BVI, Smith said.
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