PRESS RELEASE – In celebration of Emancipation Day, the Southern Equestrian Association (SEA) along with the Southern Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) will be hosting a horse race meet, coined Emancipation Day Classics, starting at 1PM on August 1, 2015 at the Kaka Bef Grounds in Beanefield, Vieux Fort.
Emancipation Day Classics 2k15 will feature nine races broken down into three categories including half-breed, creole, and creole rumble races. Creole horses are those born in the Caribbean with no identifiable foreign blood, while half breed horses are a mixed of creole and thoroughbred horses.
First, second and third place winners of each race will receive cash prizes, with the half breed races taking in a total of $9,000.00, the creole races $6,300.00 and the creole rumble races $5,400.00, bringing total event cash winnings to $20,700.00.
The thoroughbred was developed in 17th- and 18th-century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Oriental stallions of Arabian, Barb, and Turkoman breeding. They are considered “hot-blooded” and are well known for their agility, speed and spirit.
It isn’t clear how or when the tradition of horse racing took hold in Vieux Fort, but obviously the district’s wide-open, grassy plains, reminiscent of the American West, lends itself to horse husbandry, and horse racing and other equestrian activities. Interestingly, in most other parts of the world it is the well to do that own and race horses, but in St. Lucia, and Vieux Fort in particular, many of the horses and stables are owned by persons of modest means, and by some of our most economically disadvantaged citizens.
Mr. Julius James, Interim Executive Director of STDC, said that since horse husbandry and activities are largely undertaken by persons of modest means, the industry can be seen as an opportunity to provide livelihoods for those in greatest need.
Mr. Vincent Clarke, a Board Director of STDC and operator of Savanne Stables, explains that besides racing, horse owners in Vieux Fort and other parts of St. Lucia generate income by providing horseback riding tours, and horse rides to children particularly as part of the entertainment at festivities.
However, there is room for even greater scope. Stables can put on show jumping and the public can be encouraged to visit stables and enjoy horseback riding on a regular basis. Such outside recreation and interaction with animals can have a benefiting impact on children, instilling in them a greater appreciation of farm animals, nature, and the outdoors.
Moreover, the horse racing side of the business can be taken up a notch and conducted more frequently by the establishment of dedicated race tracks equipped with covered stands, and betting booths. It is probably for these reasons that the Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, has been an enthusiastic supporter and sponsor of horse racing in Vieux Fort. Emancipation Day Classics 2K15 proving no exception.
However, according to Mr. Wilbur Moffat, Chairperson of the Horse Racing Committee, in recent years the SEA hasn’t been operating at full mast, but the organization sees Emancipation Day Classics 2k15 as ushering a new era in its history.
Soon after the meet it is planning to hold an AGM to elect a new Board with the hope of strengthening the organization and fostering a spirit of transparency, accountability, and shared responsibility. It is aiming to stage more frequent and better structured meets and establishing an annual calendar of racing events.
Also on the Mr. Moffat’s mind and the SEA’s agenda is the establishment of a permanent, modern race track at Beanefield, in the vicinity of the old sugar mill. Draft designs have already been drawn for the race track. The hope is that the race track and racing events will meet international standards, provide larger prize purses, pull larger numbers of spectators, incorporate betting, promote better animal care, professionalize the jockey trade, and draw more competitors locally and regionally.
The President of the Board of STDC, Dr. Anderson Reynolds, said that STDC was happy to come onboard with the SEA to help strengthen the organization and elevate the standard (and increase the frequency) of its meets. STDC’s involvement with the SEA and other event promoters and organizers is part of an effort to develop a calendar of sporting, cultural and entertainment events to compliment Vieux Fort’s natural, historical and cultural attractions as visitor pull factors.
In the same vein, Dr. Reynolds said that STDC is championing and advocating for the establishment of a number of social and economic assets in Vieux Fort, including dedicated horse racing and drag car racing tracks, a well-equipped and themed recreation park, as well as a marina.
Recently the SEA and Vieux Fort horsemen have been the beneficiary of other help. A group of concerned residents have established a Vieux Fort Horseman Fund to foster better horse handling and animal health care among Vieux Fort horsemen. So far the Fund has provided medical treatment to strayed and injured horses, and has held workshops on horse shoeing, handling, and animal health. The Fund is also advocating for a tick eradication program and is seeking internships for horsemen to work on US stud farms six months at a time.
According to the SEA, with Emancipation Day Classics 2k15, spectators can expect a horse race meet of a high standard and with a difference. It will be accompanied with an entertainment package, jockeys will be properly attired, and races will be staged on time and completed well before dark. Emancipation Day Classics 2k15 is free and open to the public.