Garrison Savannah (Bridgetown, Barbados, W.I.)
Flat, (Turf and all weather), Track distance approx. ¾ of a mile.
Approx no. of meetings
Approx. 25 meetings a year, split in to three seasons (Spring, Summer and Winter)
Flight from London (approximately 8.5 hours)
Bus from central Bridgetown (5-10 minutes according to traffic)
Airport to Racecourse (Approx 5 miles)
Taxis – Plentiful..
Two main stands, A small bar and restaurant for snacks, a fabulous members air conditioned lounge which contains a betting desk and a roving dealer.
Sandals at Dover Beach, but many other closer hotels in downtown Bridgetown such as Radisson and Hilton.
Multiple entry levels from BDS$15 through to BDS$100 for individual day memberships (advance only). However, the track is in the middle of a Unesco world heritage site and it is possible for people to watch from the track side just beyond the race barriers..
(2) Return before challenge complete
The Day: (17 December 2016– UK Tracks Visited (22), Irleand and RoW tracks visited (4))
Where does one begin with a trip to Historic Garrison Savannah, I look at the date and have the strangest realisation. This time last year, Madam Hoof and I were taking the two-hour train Journey to a cold but sunny Newbury, very early on in our quest to visit all the tracks in the UK and Ireland. A year later, we find ourselves dressed for the occasion but feeling the thirty plus degrees of heat to visit what must be one of the coolest and sexiest race tracks in the world.
Let me set the scene if I may. One arrives at the most beautiful and awe inspiring UNESCO world heritage site where one is surrounded by the beautiful garrison building of the current Barbados Army. To one side of the track is the impressive monument created to celebrate the recent 50th anniversary of the Island’s independence (recently formerly visited by Prince Harry). This is a beautiful and serene monument celebrating some of the great achievements of the Island and her peoples. To the other corner of the Savannah is George Washington’s house which is now a Museum, giving a view in to life on the Island when he visited for 49 days in his early years.
Now we get to the jewel of the Savannah, in its exquisite setting, Garrison Savannah racetrack. This picturesque oval of approximately three quarters of a mile sits in the middle of all this splendour and history and is home to the Barbados Turf club (created in 1905, although racing has been happening at the site since 1845). We had arranged our day memberships around two months ago, as you can probably appreciate this exercise takes a little more planning than a trip to our local track of Lingfield. Arriving at the office we met the delightful Ann-Marie who I had previously spoken to on the phone, and after providing us with our tickets she literally danced us into the stadium and showed us around.
There are several advantages to being organised and getting the day memberships in advance, firstly the wonderful view from the lounge, which appears to hang precariously over the finish line as if by a feat of magic. Madam Hoof and I have never been this close to track from above before and it does provide a unique and wonderful experience. Secondly, as we were dressed formally and respectfully, the air-conditioning was a boon, added to which we had the use of the private bar and betting facilities.
Before I get onto the horses themselves, I should mention the members. We had arrived early and at the same time as part time Canadian, part time Bajan’s Len and Nina. They briefly schooled us on some of the finer points of the club and then shared a table with us for the next five hours of our racing day. We were also introduced to Sandra who does an amazing job promoting the club and some of the other passionate members. A particular pleasure was to meet distant cousins of the Hoof dynasty, Charlie Brooks and his lovely wife. Finally, the opportunity to be interviewed live on camera about the Hoof’s sporting tours was the icing on the cake.
OK, I get it, I will stop prevaricating and get back to the horses. There were seven races, of varying lengths, but mostly around the mile mark (It is hot). The fields ranged from 6 through around 14 for the final race, which was a fast paced and frenetic dash. All the usual elements of racing were in play, the colourful silks, the beautifully prepared horses and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd (especially when cheering for the local jockeys). It is, as I said many times before, the little differences, that makes these trips worthwhile. We were treated to the most colourful starter ever, replete in red and white plumage, and carrying an airhorn. There was no paddock as such and the parade ring for the horses was unusually on the inside of the track, but this is a great way for everybody to see the horses without the previously mentioned tidal flow of other tracks.
Betting is also a little different and with no Tote on site and a subtle absence of tic tac men, this was much more simple in many ways, but also challenging to make the comparisons between our usual bets and the ones in use on the day. With a little help from our new friends and other members, both Madam Hoof and I both came away up, which is a rarity as normally one balances out the other.
In closing, this track is a real find. For the people of Barbados, I am sure it is a well-known and closely guarded secret, but for the outside world I am sure it is one that should be further revealed. With the numbers of holidaymakers flowing to the Island, why not look before you book and see if you can do something less ordinary with your time away. There are only so many days you can spend on the beach or in a rum-shop. Why not take the time to try the most excellent Garrison Savannah racecourse and see what I mean.