Our first experience of the Nevis social scene came today when we headed to the south east of the Island, to Indian Castle for an afternoon of horse racing. The information stated the start time as 2pm, but we had been advised not to get there too early as it often doesn't actually start until about 4pm! This is the Caribbean after all. By about 3.45pm things were starting to look quite positive for an imminent start, the tractor had gone round pulling his sledge made of old pallets weighed down with rocks to level the track and the guys who were following after and manually raking the soil for stones must have been at least an eighth of the way round - time for a beer break!
Eventually, about 4ish the first race started. This in itself caused some confusion for everyone. We had asked about betting about 5 minutes before to be told that they weren't ready to take any bets. When I asked how it worked, it was explained like this - all the money put on the race goes into a pot, the Nevis Jockey Club gets 75% of the pot and the rest is shared by the winners. It seemed to be that you could win here and still be out of pocket!! I must have looked confused as lady later stated that you get your stake back as well - ah that's alright then. Betting here is also different to home in that there is a maximum take of 5 ECD, which is about £1.25 per bet. At this stage we were surprised, as was the commentator to find that the first race had in fact started, without any notice at all and had been won! When we went to place our bets for the second race, we found that they had run the second race first, as those running in the first race had not been ready, back to the race card to choose another horse! Bets on for the second race, a whole 10 ECD each, clearly the rules aren't that well adhered to and we had a win! (There was a maximum of 4 horses in any one race). We were now 20 ECD in pocket (£5).
The third race was chaotic - at least 2 jockeys fell off before they got to the start line, and those that didn't took ages to get there. The starts are unusual in that there are no gates or even a tape to line everyone up first. The have a red flag and a white flag. The jockeys pass the red flag first and, if the white flag is subsequently raised, the race can continue. It seemed that there are no rules about going thorough the start line before the race, and so long as everyone went through the start at about the same time and in the same direction, I kid you not, the race was on. Some horses had a practically standing start whereas others were galloping up to the line - very odd.
Despite our early success, it was not to be repeated, we failed on all subsequent races to pick a winner, and you would have thought that as we picked a horse each, out of three we would be in with a fighting chance but no we still managed to loose every race!! In the final race it was not surprising that I lost as the jockey on the horse I had chosen was completely incapable of stopping the horse at all near the start line and so he managed to do 2 full laps of the course at full gallop while the others got themselves organised and was unsurprisingly exhausted when the race started properly and pulled up after about a quarter of a lap!
We had a great afternoon, but unfortunately by this time it had started to rain heavily, and after being dropped off by the taxi in town we had a very wet dinghy ride back to the boat - needless to say the beach bonfire and BBQ that we had been planning to attend became a non-starter. As we missed it this week we have decided to stay for another week so we can go next Sunday.
The long slow process of manually preparing the track
The track had amazing views out over the ocean - you can just see Redonda in the distance. On a clear day Montserrat would also be visible.
A couple of the competitors