Horse race culture runs deep on Colombia’s San Andres Island

Nov 14, 2022, 4:37 PM | Updated: Nov 15, 2022, 6:54 am
Denis Hooker trains his race horse named Pereque in the sea near the shore of San Andres Island in ...

Denis Hooker trains his race horse named Pereque in the sea near the shore of San Andres Island in Colombia, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The 69-year-old uses traditional training methods and is considered an icon in thoroughbred horse training on the island where his horses have won numerous races. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

(AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

              Breeder Patrick Stephens rests in a hammock near his horse Pinot before race day on San Andres Island in Colombia, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. Horse racing teams keep their horses under close watch for days before races in order to protect them from being harmed in some way. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Leadid de la Cruz, center, poses for photos with her daughters Sheileanojm, right and Kissandra Dawkings on San Andres Island in Colombia, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. De la Cruz is the island’s first female jockey, who retired in her late 20s. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Race horse Chelsea finishes last, after race horse Dubai, in a two-horse race on San Andres Island in Colombia, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. There’s no racetrack on the tiny Caribbean island of San Andres, but passion for horse racing runs deep. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Horse trainer Jose Guerrero rides one of his thoroughbred horses in the shallow part of the sea on San Andres Island in Colombia, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Horse races used to be held on the beach but the spread of hotels and tourists made that impractical, so they've been moved to a forest trail. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Horse caretaker Anselmo Sams poses for a portrait with a race horse named Cleopatra on San Andres Island in Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. The twin island archipelago in the western Caribbean is inhabited largely by English speakers and was once a British colony. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Spectators cheer as racehorse Time Will Tell runs past during a race through the forest on San Andres Island in Colombia, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. The race pitted the 7-year-old mare against Black Stallion in a kilometer-long race for a $16,000 prize. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Riders bathe their race horses in the sea in the early hours of the morning on San Andres Island in Colombia, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Thoroughbreds train on sand beaches and compete on a rocky trail that cuts through the forest. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Jockey Derwin Botero poses with his race horse Tim Will Tell on San Andres Island in Colombia, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. The 7-year-old mare defeated Black Stallion in a kilometer-long race for a $16,000 prize. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Horse trainer Jose Guerrero rides one of his thoroughbred horses on San Andres Island in Colombia, early Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. Guerrero, also a jockey, doesn't wear shoes when training on the beach. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              A thoroughbred race horse stands outside a home in San Andres Island, Colombia, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Horse racing has a long history on San Andres and its sister island of Providencia despite their small populations and distance from the mainland. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Race horse Time Will Tell leads Black Stallion to win a kilometer-long race through the forest on San Andres Island in Colombia, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. Jockey Derwin Botero rode the 7-year-old mare Time Will Tell for a $16,000 prize. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              A rider walks his horse on the beach of San Andres Island in Colombia, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Horse racing has a long history on San Andres and its sister island of Providencia, inhabited largely by English speakers and was once a British colony, but is now a Colombian tourist mecca. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Horse trainer Denis Hooker poses with his horse Pereque and Pereque's winning trophies on San Andres Island in Colombia, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The 69-year-old uses traditional training methods and is considered an icon in thoroughbred horse training on the island. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Horse trainer Erick Corpus caresses his race horse named Dubai on San Andres Island, Colombia, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Corpus said that sometimes "black magic" is used on horses before races to make them less competative. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
            
              Denis Hooker trains his race horse named Pereque in the sea near the shore of San Andres Island in Colombia, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The 69-year-old uses traditional training methods and is considered an icon in thoroughbred horse training on the island where his horses have won numerous races. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

SAN ANDRES ISLAND, Colombia (AP) — There’s no racetrack on the tiny Caribbean island of San Andres, but passion for horse racing runs deep.

Thoroughbreds train on stunning white-sand beaches and compete on a rocky trail that cuts through the forest.

The latest competition pitted 7-year-old mare Time Will Tell against Black Stallion in a kilometer-long race for a $16,000 prize. Three thousand people turned up for last weekend’s race, which was won by Time Will Tell, which had trained for days on the soft sand of the beach.

Ullis Livingston, one of her caretakers, said he had slept at the mare’s stable for three days prior to the race because he feared somebody might harm the animal, and also because it is what “tradition dictates.”

Horse racing has a long history on San Andres and its sister island of Providencia despite their small populations — about 60,000 combined — and distance from the mainland, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) away.

The twin island archipelago in the western Caribbean is inhabited largely by English speakers and was once a British colony, but is now a Colombian tourist mecca packed with seaside hotels, duty-free shops and all-inclusive resorts.

At 69, Denis Hooker is the oldest jockey on the island. He said San Andres has 18 racehorses, sometimes competing against those brought over from Providencia.

Patrick Stephens said that he was taught to ride by his grandfather, who used horses to carry coconuts when the island had few cars and only unpaved roads. He said locals would race and bet on their work animals.

Eventually finer horses were imported for the races.

The competitions used to be held on the beach. But the spread of hotels and tourists made that impractical, so they’ve been moved to the forest trail. Still, jockeys can become local celebrities.

“People here admire me. And many kids ask me why I don’t continue doing this” said Leadid de la Cruz, 44, the island’s first female jockey, who retired in her late 20s.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Horse race culture runs deep on Colombia’s San Andres Island