By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FORMER Bahamian hotel executive has called for the government to consider the restoration of horse racing in the country.
Ivan James, former Apex hotelier and casino executive, said the government should look at reviving horse racing “very carefully because there’s no entertainment for the tourists”.
He made his statements three days before the 57th anniversary of the destruction of Hobby Horse Hall Race Track, which was burned to the ground on February 15, 1958.
A story headlined “Fire Flattens Track” was published in The Nassau Daily Tribune on Monday, February 17, 1958. According to Mr James, the track was rebuilt and restarted operations in 1960, and continued operating until its closure in 1977, which he said was due to “bureaucracy.”
Mr James told The Tribune last week that he has written a book and produced a documentary on the subject titled “The Life and Death of Hobby Horse Hall Race Track, Lost Rich Bahamian History,” which covers the “rich history” behind horse racing in The Bahamas.
“The current government has to take consideration of the restoration of horse racing, because it was noticed to be one of the major tourist attractions that The Bahamas ever had,” Mr James said. “During that era, you had Paradise Island beach, the Water Tower, Sea Gardens, and Fort Charlotte.
“Hobby Horse Hall Race Track was the other major tourist attraction. Today we don’t have any entertainment for the adult resorts like Baha Mar and Albany. So the government should take a look at it very carefully because there’s no entertainment for the tourists.”
According to Mr James, horse racing in The Bahamas dates back 200 years, starting in 1782 and ending in 1977.
Hobby Horse Hall Race Track, he said, was built in 1792, 81 years after Queen Anne of Great Britain built the Ascot Racecourse in England in 1711.
The track was located where mega-resort Baha Mar is located today.
Mr James said he was inspired to explore the subject to enlighten another generation about the history of horseracing in this country.
“The inspiration is awareness to the future generations and the current generation,” he said. “Because the racetrack closed in 1977, those who are around 37 to 38 years old don’t have the slightest idea of what happened in the last 38 years.
“It’s so much rich history. The book also represents an understanding for the revival of horse racing.”
According to Mr James, the book will soon be available for “global publication” in paperback and hardback format as well as on CD.
He said he finished writing the book in 2000.
Mr James also said former Governor General Sir Orville Turnquest had, while in office, endorsed the documentary.