TORTOLA — Colette Callwood and Wendy Kelsic were among die-hard horse racing fans turning out for Sunday’s Boxing Day races at Ellis Thomas Downs, as British Virgin Islands horseman are keeping the sport alive with match races. Two other head-to-head races were held in September and October.

“I like to show support to my people and to feel some normalcy amongst COVID,” Callwood said. “We needed this back. Hopefully, our nearby neighbors can soon come back again too and we can go back down. I love my horse racing.”

Kelsic said she enjoys horse races and it’s an event that she can get dressed up for.

“I’m so disappointed that we can’t have more horses running but hopefully, when this COVID things goes, the USVI will be back,” she said.

After overhauling “One Way To Fame” in the one-mile Ellis Thomas Classic match race, “Moonlight Bandit” fended off a late charge to take the race in 1 minute, 53 seconds.

“They’re faster than me, but I already knew it would have happened,” said jockey Jaquan Davis, who rode Moonlight Bandit to the win. “I slowed my horse [after passing One Way To Fame] then went again, because I know my horse. He can run all day. The owner told me on the home stretch, just beat and don’t stop.”

Dion Steven, the owner of Moonlight Bandit, said he instructed Davis to get a good break from the gate, force One Way To Fame to come and then make them run because his horse breaks sharp. The decision was to make their run when Davis was ready.

“That was it — the horse is conditioned so he’s not going to stop running,” Stevens said. “Getting this race off [Sunday] means a lot, seeing what’s happening in the world today and we had two match races before.

“Today, being a Boxing Day tradition, it means a lot to me and to all the other people who came out to support. This is I know from [my youth] and this is something the BVI was known for back in the day when there was no gate and horses just ran around, so we’re trying to keep it alive.”

Speaking on behalf of Mission House Stables, the owner of One Way to Fame, Shauvanne Nibbs said Stevens’ horse was the better horse in the race.

“It’s back to the drawing board again,” Nibbs said. “It was nice to have the races and people coming out to see them. We hoping to have races sometime in February.”

Patsy Lake, a former president of the BVI Horse Racing Association and a horse owner, said it was exciting having races again.

“The people were rearing to see horse racing going again in the BVI and the government is working on that,” Lake said. “We’ll be seeing improvements.”

Letty Hodge, also a former BVIHRA president, said it was good having the race. Hodge, along with her husband Bob, sponsored the opening four-furlongs match race, won by “Nadiaes Image” over “Uncle Mace.”

“It shows this is what the people want,” she said.

Lesmore Smith, the current BVI Horse Racing Association president, said the owners are appreciative of the fans that turned out.

“To that, I say thanks to them,” he said.