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New track ‘faster and safer’

Looking good: the modified track at Vesey Street (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The modified harness racetrack at Vesey Street will be more conducive to faster, safer and entertaining racing than the previous one, according to Charles Whited Jr, the Driving Horse and Pony Club of Bermuda president.

The racetrack underwent extensive resurfacing during the off season summer months to bring it up to modern-day standards.

A new feature of the track is the outside of all of the corners which have been banked.

“We have gone up probably 18-20 inches higher on the outside than it is on the inside, which indirectly will result in certainly a lot faster racing, a lot safer racing for the racehorse and far more entertaining racing for our spectators,” explained Whited, speaking on David Lopes’s radio show.

“It will definitely be an introduction process and I think the racehorse and the driver will both come in with a smile on their face because it’s just going to provide such a better race surface.”

The banked corners have reduced the advantage horses on the rail have had over the horses in the two, three and four- hold positions on the old flat track.

“Basically, if you were on the outside you had to have a pretty good horse to get around that horse in the faster classes,” Whited said. “The slower classes kind of panned itself out throughout the course of the race.”

Whited said the old surface was no longer suitable for the faster horses that now compete in the sport.

“The quality of horses has really increased and become far better and speeds, as a result of that, have gotten a whole lot faster,” he said.

“But as we have gotten faster, the demands of what we needed to be doing to keep the track par to sustain the racehorses that we race today had fallen below standard and we were breaking horses down on a regular. Horses were coming up sore and obviously a horse can’t race sore just like a human being can’t race if its ankle hurts.

“So as a result of that, it was decided at the end of last season that we needed to address this issue and we needed to do it quite aggressively.”

Whited said the new track will reduce physical stress on the horses.

“If you can try and, as they are making their way around the corner, keep the ground they are standing on as perpendicular as you can to them then what it does is reduces a lot of the stress on joints and everything else on the horse,” he added.

The modified track will be officially christened during a grand reopening ceremony today, beginning at 5.45pm.

“We will have a ribbon cutting and grand reopening ceremony there in the racetrack and that will be to open and celebrate the resurfacing project that has taken place over the summer months down at the National Equestrian Centre,” Whited said.

Exhibition races will also be held, starting from 6pm.

The 2017-18 harness season commences under floodlights on Friday.