On the Saturday we arrived in Providence we were lucky enough to catch a horse race on Southwest Beach.
In a rum-fuelled discussion on zoology we were told that the first horses of Providence might be the descendants of large sea horses. As part of their evolution they changed their diet of seaweed to that of grass of terra firma. The English brought thoroughbred mares, which have now been mixed with the blood of the spirited Colombian trotter.
There were two flat races, each race consisting of two colts or fillies. Each runner was owned by a local syndicate. Honour and glory were at stake, and we heard whispers that due to alleged cheating or unfairness last month someone was stabbed.
Most of the island turned out to watch them gallop along hard sand on the waters edge. We could hear bets being placed amongst friends and rivals on which runner would win. Some of the bets were over £200. The largest bet we were told about on a recent race was £750. On an island with a poor economy this represented some very serious alliances!
The horses trotted up to the starting line past the punters talking quickly and loudly on the beach. On the first race the riders where quite distinct.
The noise of the crowd built to a crescendo, children were called in to close quarters so as not to get trampled under the hooves of this local Derby. Suddenly we saw the horses galloping towards us through the surf. Spray and sand was flung up from each striding hoof. The rivals vied for pole position. With their tails raised they shot past us towards the finish line with the bay increasing his lead.
It was over too quickly and exciting to watch. Apparently they only race once a month, so we happened to be in the right place just at the right time.
Feisty fillies warming up
Smart uniform including Liverpool football socks circa. 1985
A crowded finishing post (palm tree)
Ladies Day at the beach
And they're off.....
Cruising to victory
Second race (the 13:45 at Royal Providence)
A closer encounter
The grey ahead by a length
But the chestnut powers through to take it at the finish