Local enthusiasts are busy planning for the return of “traditional” horse racing to Vieux Fort to rekindle this popular sporting rivalry in the southern community—and most importantly, to help steer young people into participating in meaningful activity.
Organisers have scheduled October, 22 for the big event to take place on the Kaka Boeuf, Vieux Fort, and state that horse riders from across the country have shown keen interest in competing.
A spokesperson for the Southern Equestrian Association- the main organisers of the event said at least 27 jockeys with their respective horses have registered so far, and they anticipate that more competitors will enter the races.
Horse racing was last held at Vieux Fort in 2015 and the organisers are keen on reviving this 40-year tradition that has brought much joy and thrills to the community
“Local horse racing is a very long-standing tradition that is not new to Saint Lucians or local horse riders,” Marlan Biscette told St. Lucia Times.
He said the DSH project that was initiated in 2016, by international investor Theo Ah King and the former United Workers Party (UWP) disrupted the event’s staging.
“It derailed us because the facility that we used for the past decade …we were more or less restricted from using it when they were building the road to facilitate the DSH project. The
Kaka Bouef or the Old Base was cordoned off and a lot of the debris from the construction works was dumped on the Kaka Bouef,” Biscette contended.
He said the Folk Research Centre (FRC) has endorsed the event as a “fringe activity” as part of this year’s Jounen Kweyol –Creole Heritage Month activities.
In addition, other corporate sector support has been provided to ensure a successful event.
Rayneau Construction is playing its part in a big way by preparing the venue.
Biscette notes that jockeys “from across the island all play a part in what is happening and will be participating in the event as well”.
He anticipates that at least six (6) races will be held on the day “as long as we get the appropriate numbers”.
Admitting that the Creole celebrations are a good launching pad for the event, he declared: “This is definitely what we are hoping for … and with the opportunity that we have been granted, it will be the beginning of a resurgence of local horse racing.”
Describing the Kaka Bouef as the “home” of horseracing on the island that has helped forge good relationships in the community, Biscette is optimistic that “after this event, we are
looking forward to hosting more of these activities in the future.”
Biscette said a few northern jockeys had been in Vieux Fort recently to assist in a sort of “Koudmain” (self-help) fashion, and also horse enthusiasts from Canaries helped with the task of preparing the strip for the races.
He noted that support from Rayneau Construction has been like a ‘blessing in disguise’ and the strip is now “in a better condition than it has ever been…and we were blessed with the assistance from Mr Rayneau.”
Whereas several requests for assistance from other persons were not forthcoming, they are pleased that Rayneau came forward to get the activity off the ground.
Acknowledging the timely intervention, he said, “His (Rayneau) assistance in the preparation of the ground (strip) has been instrumental in this activity becoming a reality for us.”
Biscette adds that Jolene – the owner of The Reef also rendered support for the activity “and she has been pushing for the event as a means of helping our young people to refocus their energies into something positive.”
He feels strongly that the activity has the ‘right vibes’ to help cut down on the gun violence and other criminal activity experienced by the southern town lately.
Notably, asserted Biscette: “The whole horse racing endeavour …the whole equine endeavour has been something that the youth in Vieux Fort traditionally have been very involved in”.
“And what we’re seeing is that from the time the whole horse racing initiative came to a halt, a lot of these youths who used to be riders and some actual horse owners … a lot of these youths have been distracted to the point that they have gone astray,” he added.
While noting that the Kaka Bouef was synonymous with horseracing in Vieux Fort and provided an avenue for the youth to keep out of trouble, Biscette said: “A lot of the youth who are involved or have become involved in criminal activity, these
guys are excellent riders and excellent horsemen. And some of them that are incarcerated right now maybe some of the best riders that Saint Lucia has ever produced…and this event which used to pull people from all across the community together that activity came to an abrupt halt.”