Boxing Day at the Races

Published: January 5th 2010
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Jockey in waitingJockey in waitingJockey in waiting

The first race was delayed due to one stubborn horse who refused to enter the gate. This jockey was waiting fo rthe OK to mount up.
Every year on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, the Barbados Turf Club hold some of the richest horses races of the year at the Garrison Savannah. Sponsored by Diamonds International and Audemars Piguet, this meet often boasts some pretty nice horses.

But the best part of the day isn’t always the horses.

As its name implies, the Garrison Savannah is the former parade ground of the British troops that were once stationed in Barbados. The British are gone, but the garrison still remains, though now it houses the Barbados Defense Force. The Garrison Savannah is also home to one of the largest collections of antique cannon anywhere in the world. The cannon ring the race track around the last turn, and I always wonder if that gives the horses any extra incentive to get the lead out (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Boxing Day at the races is a cross between a family reunion, church picnic, and small town carnival. You can walk right off the street onto the grounds, making it accessible to everyone. Ladies from the church will set up temporary gas burners on which they bring pots of oil to a boil to fry fish cakes. For a small fee, you can join in the feast, and under the tree there will be a cooler with beer and soft drinks on ice.

Families will come with picnic baskets and lots of children. The kids always have a good time, whether it is bonding with Daddy over the Racing Form, or playing on the track itself between races. Yes, you read that right - nothing prevents you from going onto the track itself. You are separated only by the rail. And little kids (and adults) can walk under the rail very easily.

If you do cross the track onto the infield, you are in for a whole ‘nother experience entirely. The Barbados Rugby Club has their clubhouse here, and on race day it is home to ex-pat Brits and empty Guinness bottles. There are also any number of small tents set up with games of chance, and bingo and poker.

All around the track are vendors selling barbeque, peanuts, sno-cones, beer, plastic toys, you name it. And since the race is broadcast over the local radio station, if you can stand next to someone with a radio you can hear the track announcer just fine.

Boxing Day at the Races 2009 was a fine day, sunny and warm. Sure, a couple of horses refused to enter the starting gate, and Rush Cutter didn’t make it three in a row. And, even after studying the photos, the big money race was a dead heat. You can’t get more exciting racing than that.

Yep, I think I’ll come back next year.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Betting windowBetting window
Betting window

Note the cannon
They're offThey're off
They're off

I took this photo from the inside rail at the track.

I have rather long hair, but this guy has me beat by a long shot.
Under the gunUnder the gun
Under the gun

The cannon provide a spot of shade during the race.

The toys add to the carnival atmosphere.

Betting on the coin toss.
Here's looking at you, kid...Here's looking at you, kid...
Here's looking at you, kid...

This little girl had new binonculars just for the race.

Studying the racing form takes a lot of concentration

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