The idea of having a world-class race rack here in Saint Lucia is almost unbelievable. My grandfather was a racehorse owner and trainer; my father was a racehorse owner and trainer; my Mum was a racehorse owner. I used to ride as a boy, so I am very well acquainted with the horse racing industry.
Back in the Fifties and Sixties the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados and Jamaica all had turf clubs and racetracks and held regular race meets. Today though, there is no longer a turf club or track in Grenada. Tobago no longer has a racetrack and Trinidad’s are now just one. But Barbados still has a vibrant racing scene, as well as Jamaica. Racing is big in Puerto Rico and Martinique.
Deciding to choose Saint Lucia as a location for a state of the art racing facility seems for foreign investors a natural choice, for many reasons. The most important is that many of these owners come from countries in the Far East and the Middle East, long distances from America and England where the most prestigious and high stakes races in the world take place. The English Derby and Kentucky Derby come to mind. Eight hours to England and five hours to the US, as opposed to ten and sixteen hour flights is a very attractive option for the owner of an expensive thoroughbred racehorse, as long distance flights affect the animals negatively. The cost of the flights will be cheaper for them although I suspect cost is not an issue for this group.
Another reason is that we do not have a turf club or track or an established horse racing culture, which means we have a clean slate on which to develop a local racing culture without the politics of having to deal with established turf clubs and their societies throughout the region.
The physical location of the track is also very appropriate as the track layout requires a substantial amount of flat land, and Vieux Fort has an abundance of just that. Also, many trainers take their horses to swim in the sea as part of their training regime. The location is good, not just for the track itself, but also for the many people from the south of the island who have no choice but to spend much of their salaries on transport to jobs in the north. They will now be presented with job opportunities much closer to home.
Much of our country’s development has been in the north of the island, so this comes as a welcome development for everyone south of the Barre des Isle. People from the south will now leave jobs in the north, which will open up job opportunities for people in the north. A win-win situation when it comes to job creation.
Speaking of which: this racing facility, when completed, will provide jobs for many young men who have never finished school and find it difficult to get a job because of their level of education. Nowhere else in the Caribbean is there an island where local young men own, ride and care for their own horses.
There will be jobs for these same young men as stable lads, grooms, exercise lads, farriers, trainers and even jockeys. Several jockeys from the Caribbean are champions in the US and Canada, and maybe there will be Looshan jockeys joining their ranks in the future. There will also be opportunities for farmers growing and providing grass and corn for feed as well as grasses for bedding. On race days, there will be opportunities for concessioners and the stands will require a large staff in order to carry out the many operations. A large facility such as envisaged will produce tons of manure that can be used by farmers to increase the fertility of their soils which have been degraded by harsh farming practices.
Mushrooms can be grown in horse manure, which opens up opportunities for a spin off industry such as large-scale mushroom production for regional export. The project is mostly organic as a paddock is run just like a regular livestock operation where animals are housed, fed and cared for, the only difference is that the animals are not going to be eventually eaten. There is the possibility of the creation of stud farms for horse breeding which can provide employment for many more people.
All in all, I believe that this facility will improve the lives of many Saint Lucians as well as open up opportunities for other potential investments. Exposing our beautiful island to five hundred millionaires is sure to lead to other projects, as anyone experiencing Saint Lucia will realize that there are in a very special place and will want to invest here.
Article written by Andre de Caires