The foreign entries in the Sandy Lane Gold Cup proved to be a big drawing card for the hundreds who thronged the Garrison Savannah yesterday for the 33rd running of the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.
Stands filled to capacity, spectator lined five deep at the rails as well as a large crowd on an infield dotted with vendors’ stalls and children’s jumping tents, brought back memories of past Gold Cup days when the sight at the Garrison Savannah used to be a mass of colourfully-dressed race fans occupying every possible vantage point to watch the Caribbean’s biggest horse race.
Pre-race entertainment was vintage with the world famous group The Merrymen, stirring the crowd with a medley of the folk songs and infectious rhythm that made them an international sensation, including their popular standard Beautiful Barbados.
EmceeMac Fingall, dressed in his pink suit in keeping with the Sandy Lane colours, and top hat, whipped up crowd enthusiasm with his characteristic humour in the build-up to the big race, and injected a bit of nostalgia when he announced it was perhaps the last time that the group would be seen on stage together. The Merrymen’s appearance in their trademark costumes was consistent with the tone of the parade which preceded the running of the Gold Cup race.
This year the dancers represented cultural aspects of all three participating countries, Barbados, Trinidad and the United States, whose national anthems were played by the Royal Barbados Police Force Band to the delight of the crowd. People applauded the tiny “green monkey” flipping across the green turf, the stiltmen and the well-groomed ponies parading in front of the stands.
In the private box of president of the Barbados Turf Club Sir David Seale, seven-time winner of the prized Gold Cup, there was a buzz stirred by the presence of American Kenneth Ramsey whose horse Major Marvel was tipped to take the victory. Sir David could be heard to remark graciously, that the American-bred horse competing against his prized horses Aristodemus and Dashing David was also “top class.”
With baited breath, spectators awaited the starter’s bell and when the gate flew there was muted excitement until it was clear that Barbadian champion jockey Patrick Husbands was recording another winning run. That he was astride a non-Barbadian horse did not seem to matter, judging from the screams of joy as he steered Major Marvel past the finish line to make this the first American horse to win the Sandy lane Gold Cup.
Satisfied with the day’s outcome, general manager of Sandy Lane Hotel Randall Wilkie said afterwards the hotel would continue to sponsor the race.