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A THORNY ISSUE: Kudos to BTC for great dayx

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE: Kudos to BTC for great dayx

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IT?WAS?an excellent Sandy Lane Gold Cup Day.
It lived up to the hype but the notion is always about what will happen to racing after this grand occasion at the Garrison Savannah.
The Barbados Turf Club (BTC) earned its stripes for what appeared to be a flawless execution of its duties on Saturday but must now use the momentum to make the sport attractive to the masses throughout the year. It must continue to be imaginative and creative in selling its product to the public.
If we are honest, we have to concede that the Turf Club has been trying to do just that.
The fact that it staged its first ever 11-race card bears witness to this and let’s also remember the successful evening races and the Winter Jockey Championship hosted last year.
The success of Gold Cup Day filled our bellies but we are still hungry.
It is the responsibility of the BTC to respond to the demands of our appetites.
We had confirmation that once there’s quality, the Caribbean’s most prestigious race will continue to gain greater attention at home and abroad.
Not surprisingly, we saw one of the largest crowds in years and one of the world’s noted horse racing channels took the local feed.
It is also a fact that the best form of inducement is to stage events that meet international standards and the rest, as they say, will be history.
The BTC passed that test with ease but it had to be prefaced by pragmatic ideas, in-depth research and planning. This approach shouldn’t be restricted to one day.
I honestly believe we need to refresh the promotional branding of the United Derby.
A derby is no ordinary race and I feel the stakeholders should give it extraordinary attention.
I foresee many more thousands returning to support the derby as they did when it was our premier horse race once a strong case is presented to the public for their patronage.
The time is definitely ripe, too, for night racing, although this is a decision the BTC can’t make on its own.
The Heritage Committee and Town and Country Planning must be in concert with the idea because they want to ensure that nothing will be done to affect Historic Bridgetown And Its Garrison designation as a world heritage site.
Town and Country Planning got a better understanding of what is at stake following a recent town hall meeting and it is my understanding that the application is being considered more favourably than before.
I have been told that the BTC has been requested to submit further drawings showing that the spacing of the lighting poles will not obstruct the view of the Main Guard.
The Savannah, with its sharp turns, is very unique and we can still capitalise on its history even though there is another opinion that a new location will enhance the sport.
The Sandy Lane Gold Cup is great for sports tourism, especially when there’s a product of quality to market.
Outside of that, I have noticed an upsurge in tourist attendance at the races during the winter season, and those I’ve spoken to marvel at the ambience, the track size and the skill of local jockeys. Yes, the Garrison is still very marketable.
Don’t forget North American horse racing tycoon Frank Ramsey said he brought his charge here more for the prestige than the money.  
As far as the Gold Cup is concerned, Major Marvel merely confirmed that he was the best horse in the field. He hardly broke a sweat in romping to a contemptuous dismissal of his rivals.
It looked as if all Patrick Husbands had to do was sit on his back and avoid getting into any trouble and the mission would be accomplished.
We inevitably had our own sentimental favourites but objectively we knew Major Marvel had imposing credentials coming into the race. He belonged to the top of the class and maintained his grades.
For me, the other notable performance was that of Shared Adventure. Having never gone the distance, some of us were within our rights to speculate about his credibility to get it even if his bloodlines suggested he could.
I am elated that he answered in the affirmative because he may also have convinced his connections that he’s not only the best sprinter in training, but potentially the best over longer distances too.
Defending champion Aristodemus seems to need more time to return to peak fitness.
At age eight, Areutalkintome’s chances of winning the Gold Cup in outstanding company will depreciate, but at four Knight Rider has time to develop.
The day’s main accolades for jockeyship went to Husbands, who rode with calm assurance and the intelligence that makes him one of the top reinsmen in the world.
I particularly enjoyed his handling of Kendal Moon. It was sublime, effortless and majestic.
He continues to be a supreme example of what small islands can produce once the opportunity presents itself.
We can’t forget either to praise the vision of those who came up with the recent concept to have a best dressed competition among the grooms, whose status as key practitioners in the local racing industry isn’t fully appreciated.
They enjoyed the challenge and, as witnessed on Saturday, their sartorial deportment was immaculate.
I hope they maintain that standard.
In all that transpired on Gold Cup Day, horse racing and the Barbados Turf Club were the biggest winners.
The quest is now to go beyond the call of duty to remain in the winners’ circle.
• Andi Thornhill is an award-winning sports journalist.