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Downie gets track in ship shape

Lindon Yarde

Downie gets track in ship shape

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Fantastic displays of human skills and the adoring smiles of pleased fans are usually the results of some successful well coordinated and staged event.
Call them what you may, groundsmen, caretakers or curators these individuals endure the most criticism for what is the most crucial piece of the puzzle – laying the foundation on which the respective sports are to be contested.
Over the last nine years, Charles Downie has been entrusted with the responsibility of the facilities at the Garrison Savannah. As the track and paddock superintendent manager, Downie, as he is fondly known by his small staff, maintains the Gordon Lewis Paddock, the Val Gale Paddock and the race track.
From the beginning of the third racing season 2011 until the completion of the second season 2012, this group would have encountered 23 racing days in a ten-month span without the customary four-to six-week hiatus.
“With about 100 horses going around the track it’s very strenuous on my small staff, especially the route races where there’s plenty filling to do and the maintenance is very difficult at times,” he said.
“It’s very difficult with so many race days especially back to back. When the rain falls it takes lots of preparation – the grass has to be replanted and it takes time for the roots to catch. With horses travelling 45 miles per hour and mass weights anywhere between 1 200 and 1 500 pounds it will create a lot of damage to the track. If it dries then we can control the water we put in which then allows us to take care of the damage.”
When asked how he handled the waterlogged areas on the track, Downie indicated that they did something called irrigating and when it rained it would be undertaken manually as any equipment used on the wet surface would only create more problems.
“We have to take spades and dig holes two to three inches deep to absorb the water. We also have to put down stuff to build up the area ensuring that it doesn’t puddle or muddy. Generally the two weeks between races isn’t enough time to prepare the track.”
Proper soil preparation provides the basis for good seed germination and subsequent growth of grass. Replanting of grass is a continuous action as without the adequate supply of food and oxygen the grass will be stressed.
“We have to take out the grass, prepare it, fertilize it, cut them into small pieces before replanting, and dig holes. We can’t put too much water before the race day.”