The historic Garrison Savannah was the place to be last Saturday, as hundreds turned out for the 37th running of the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.
The air was filled with both excitement and anticipation as locals and tourists alike descended on the Savannah, which is a UNESCO designated world heritage site, to watch the biggest horse race of the year.
On the grounds it was all laughter and merriment as children could be seen running from pillar to post.
By the time the parade was ready to begin, there was hardly a place to stand along the racing track as patrons utilized every vantage point to take in the colourful spectacle.
As usual, the Sandy Lane Gold Cup dancers were fashionably turned out – this year in beautiful pink and gold. They were accompanied by the stilt walkers for their well-coordinated routine, in which there was musical accompaniment from the Royal Barbados Police Force Band.
The soca captain Red Plastic Bag also had the crowd rocking left and rocking right during the tight entertainment set in which the crowd also warmly received a rendition from young Trinity Clarke.
However, as the actual Gold Cup race drew near things got a lot more tense in the betting booths which were filled to capacity by both young and the old, trying their luck at picking the eventual winner.
In the end, the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned Sir Dudley Digges would claim the $214,000 purse as
local jockey Jalon Samuel became the second jockey after Jono Jones to score a hat-trick of Sandy Lane Gold Cups after winning the 2016 and 2017 event.
At one point the race looked all over with a winner assured, but Samuel with his trademark strong-hand ride dug deep to get Sir Dudley Digges home ahead of stable mate Shining Copper.
Infrared was third as the highest placed Barbados-owned horse. Former double Gold Cup winner Dorsett had to settle for fourth position this time around.
With his win on Saturday, Samuel also equalled the record of Patrick Husbands and retired jockeys Venice Richards and Jono Jones of four Gold Cups a piece.
“Gold Cup has improved drastically. For the last couple of years we didn’t really have overseas entrants but the increase this year it makes for an interesting Gold Cup [race],” said horse racing fan Deshawn Hunte, who told Barbados TODAY he was quite impressed with the quality of oversees entrants in the prestigious horse race.
His comments were supported by a female horse racing fan, who was excited to see international horses competing here that she typically would only have seen on YouTube or the horse racing channel.
“To actually watch these top quality horses on the horse racing channel and see them running down here, it adds a lot to our racing,” she said, adding that “since we have started to have top quality overseas horses, there is a different buzz”.
Terry Osbourne, who generally does not miss a Gold Cup race, described the turn out this year as bigger than last year.
And following the announcement by the Barbados Turf Club President Sir David Seale that the Garrison Savannah will soon have flood lights to accommodate night racing by November, he expects the local horse racing programme to continue to expand.
“The reason we still have horse racing in Barbados is because of the local patrons who participate in the race day,” Osbourne said.