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Nevis's Day at the Races

One of the Caribbean's most festive, endearingly idiosyncratic events is the Nevis Turf and Jockey Club's Day at the Races, held 9 to 12 times a year on the wild and windswept Indian Castle course. I first experienced the event in the mid-1990s, when I met club president Richard "Lupi" Lupinacci, owner of the Hermitage Plantation Inn. Before even introducing himself, Richard sized me up in the driveway: "You look about the right size for a jockey. How's your seat?" His equally effervescent wife, Maureen, then interceded, "Darling, if you loathe horses, don't worry. In fact, Lupi and I have an agreement about the Jerk and Turkey Club. I get major jewels for every animal he buys."

Since my riding skills were rusty, it was decided that I should be a judge (despite questionable vision, even with glasses). "If it's really by a nose, someone will disagree with you either way," I was reassured. The next day presented a quintessential Caribbean scene. Although a serious cadre of aficionados (including the German consul) talked turf, the rest of the island seemed more interested in liming and enjoying lively music. Local ladies dished out heavenly barbecued chicken and devilish gossip. Sheep and cattle unconcernedly ambled across the course. But when real horses thundered around the oval, the wooden stands groaned under the weight of cheering crowds, and bookies hand-calculated the payouts.

The irregularly scheduled races continue, albeit now on a properly sodded track, as does the equine hospitality.

Hermitage Stables. Here you can opt for everything from horseback riding to jaunts in hand-carved mahogany carriages. Hermitage Plantation Inn, Hermitage Rd., Gingerland, Nevis. 869/469–3477. www.hermitagenevis.com.

Nevis Equestrian Centre. The Nevis Equestrian Centre offers leisurely beach rides as well as more demanding canters through the lush hills, starting at $55. Clifton Estate, Cotton Ground, Pinney's Beach, Nevis. 869/662–9118. www.nevishorseback.com.

Updated: 2013-09-13

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