Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:51 am Last modified: 9:35 am

The Future of Horse Racing Hangs in the Balance

Dear Source:

This letter is to our government leaders and the people of the Virgin Islands. On Wednesday, November 30th, our Legislators will have the opportunity to vote to approve a monumental piece of legislation that will change the sport of horse racing in the US Virgin Islands.

Governor Mapp is proposing a 30 million dollar investment by VIGL Operations, LLC for territorial horse racing, that would revitalize both tracks, provide 200 new job opportunities, contribute over 208 million dollars to the VI Government General Fund, and provide substantial race day purses to support the sport.

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I am the third generation of my family to own and race horses. Racing for us is more of a hobby which we continue to do because we love horses and the sport of racing. Current race purses don’t make it feasible to run as a tangible business; the facilities are not up to standards and our groomers and trainers need to have 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet.

I have been excited about the prospect of raising the bar for horse racing since hearing about the development of the track on St. Croix. The plan to combine the St. Croix and St. Thomas – St. John Horse Racing Commissions and act as one strong force will benefit the racing industry, horsemen, the tracks, and the overall economy of the Virgin Islands.

We have waited decades for this type of investment. Now, within three short years, our revitalized tracks could be operating on an international level that would allow us to be listed with great Caribbean horse racing tracks in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic. Families and visitors will look forward to spending a day at the track to watch the horses fly by in their bright silks while sitting in first class shaded comfort. With a strong race schedule in place, we’ll plan to be at the track to enjoy restaurants, bars, vendors, a playground and plenty of parking.

One of the biggest benefits will be the $100,000 prize purses. Many horse owners will come to race for the chance of winning. Greater competition will provide spectators a true international style racing experience. A key to continued funding are the planned Racinos which will operate exclusively at both tracks. And like Southland Gaming which has done an excellent job for the community, these two gaming centers will also contribute to the General Fund, fund charities, and be an excellent partner for the people of the Virgin Islands.

The Horsemen Association, and horse owners and managers at the Clinton Phipps Racetrack have been involved in the development of the proposal for nearly two years and are collectively in favor of the project. This can be our reality, not just a dream.

The future of horse racing as a cultural sport is hanging in the balance. We need to support the Governor’s multi-year effort for economic and sports development for the Virgin Islands and Virgin Islanders.

Luis Donastorg, St. Thomas

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