Since its inception in 1982, the Barbados Gold Cup aimed to be the most prestigious horse race in the Caribbean and was sponsored for the first 15 years by Cockspur rum. For the last 40 years (2023), it has been sponsored by the world-renowned Sandy Lane Hotel, whose endorsement has led to the event now seeing entries from the Caribbean, the USA, and Canada.
From that first race, the aim was to put Barbados on the horse racing map and to encourage horses from the other racing Caribbean countries of Trinidad. Jamaica and Martinique. But it was soon realized that this would be an international event once horses were bred in the USA, with trainers and jockeys from the UK and Ireland involved.
Despite all this international involvement, it has remained a very Barbadian race, with many Barbadian jockeys, trainers, owners, and horses crossing the winning line over its 40-year (2023) history.
For the past few years, the event has been watched by a worldwide audience via its live television broadcast, and in racing circles, this is one of the most sought-after trophies.
The inaugural race proved to be a resounding success as not only did horses from the twin-isle republic come over to compete in the country’s top thoroughbred event; they won it with Bold Lewis (USA) ridden by Irishman Declan Gillespie.
The very next year also saw the locals tasting defeat as, on this occasion, victory went to the Martiniquan invader Iron Lover (FR) under the skillful guidance of Englishman Bryn Crossley.
Tinkers Image (GB) in 1984 finally rested the cup for the locals as Mrs. Gill Wilson’s iron grey hung on in a desperately close finish in the hands of young Bajan apprentice Ricky Griffith.
Over the next four years (1985-1988), Barbados and Trinidad shared the major spoils with two wins each. In 1985 Emile Ramsammy rode the first of his three Gold Cup winners aboard Frisky Wharf (GB) for trainer Joseph Hadeed and Trinidad. Ramsammy also was astride the Barbados entry Stangrave Park (Ire) in 1987 and Call To Account (GB) for his native Trinidad in 1988, while Venice ‘Pappy’ Richards piloted the first of his four Gold Cup winners, Bentom (USA) for popular Barbadian Owner David Seale (now Sir David) in 1986.
For the next fourteen (14) years (1989-2002), Barbadian-based horses dominated the Gold Cup with outstanding individual performances coming from Sandford Prince (GB), who won the event in 1989, 1991, and 1992 ridden by the remarkable Venice Richards on each occasion, and Blast Of Storm (IRE) the only horse to win the race three consecutive years 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Blast Of Storm (IRE) was the sixth of seven race winners trained by the legendary William ‘Bill’ Marshall, the perennial leading conditioner in Barbados for the past twenty years. The wily maestro added to his tally in 2003 when he saddled Mrs. Gay Smith’s Thady Quill (USA) to victory under Jono Jones.
For Marshall and Jones, it was their fourth consecutive victory in the Caribbean’s premier race, and the win tied Jones with Richards for the most victories by a jockey in the Gold Cup.
From its humble beginning in 1982, the Barbados Gold Cup, sponsored for the first fifteen (15) years by Cockspur Rum and since 1997 by Sandy Lane Hotel, has grown to be the most prestigious and significant race in the Caribbean.
For 2005 and 2006, it has been beamed live to a worldwide audience on Television Games Network (TVG), and for 2004 has been preceded by the Gold Cup Festival, a series of events that includes family days, fish fry dinners, Broadway shows, a celebrity dinner, a celebrity golf tournament and a parade through the streets of the capital, Bridgetown.
It is now attracting horses from North America and Canada owned by some of the world’s leading investors in thoroughbred racing. It would be fair to conclude that the magnificent Gold Cup, won outright by the winning owner, is among the world’s most sought-after trophies.