Discover Cacique | The Hobby Horse Hall Race Track

 
Oh! Tough were the riders who rode for a fall, / In the old days, the bold days at Hobby Horse Hall / And game were the ponies from paddock and stall / And fair were the ladies who came one and all / To show off their laces and their pretty faces / At the old Nassau races at Hobby Horse Hall
— Excerpt from "Hobby Horse Hall" by Meklub

In the last #DiscoverCacique post, we took a peek at Nassau's Government House - a symbol of colonial governance that is still the official residence of the Governor-General. In this episode, we don our fanciest hats and take a stroll down memory lane to the glory days of The Hobby Horse Hall Race Track.

 
 
 A postcard from 1970 showing the action unfolding at Hobby Horse Hall — "the only race track at its kind in the world."

A postcard from 1970 showing the action unfolding at Hobby Horse Hall — "the only race track at its kind in the world."

 
 

Horse racing is a longstanding tradition in Great Britain, stemming back to 1711 when Queen Anne famously rode out from Windsor Castle to the field where Royal Ascot now takes place and declared, “This would be a fine place for a race." Considering the popularity of horse racing in the mother country, it was only a matter of time before the colonies caught on. Hobby Horse Hall Race Track was built in 1792 near the Cable Beach site where Baha Mar resort is located today. However, it was not until the glamorous 1960's, when the arena was rebuilt following a fire, that Hobby Horse Hall would become established as the place for a fashionable colonial elite to mingle and watch the horses. Upgrades such as an "efficient starting gate and a photo-finish camera” elevated the race track to rival stadiums in Europe and America (Magazine of Life & Times in The Enchanted Islands 1962).

 
 

HATS, HORSES & GLAMOUR

Hats, horses and glamour, set in a tropical paradise - throw in Errol Flynn and you'd have had yourself a box office hit. In fact, Errol Flynn was one of many distinguished guests to frequent the Hobby Horse track over the years. The fashion trends spotted at the races in Nassau could easily rival those worn by celebrities and socialites at The Royal Ascot or Kentucky Derby. International fashion editors such as Esquire and Man and His Clothes of London flocked to the grounds to capture the extravagant garments paraded around the race course.   

 
 
 Left; Ann Treglown Goodfellow, Errol Flynn (Original "Robin Hood") and Betty Treglown Goodfellow. Right; A winning jockey at Hobby Horse Hall Photo courtesy of  OldBahamas.com

Left; Ann Treglown Goodfellow, Errol Flynn (Original "Robin Hood") and Betty Treglown Goodfellow. Right; A winning jockey at Hobby Horse Hall Photo courtesy of OldBahamas.com

The social scene was so colorful that the local press was a permanent fixture at every race — they wrote "society columns" about the most recent sights, scenes and eats that the arena had to offer. The dining terrace (that seated 100 guests) beneath the clubhouse was equipped with a full kitchen that served a smorgasbord “of charcoal-grilled lobster, steaks, chops and chicken — or specialities such as turtle pie” (Magazine of Life & Times in The Enchanted Islands, 1962).

This would be a fine place for a race.
— HRM Queen Anne, 1711
 The horses take off at Hobby Horse Hall. Photo courtesy of Bahamas Historical Society. 

The horses take off at Hobby Horse Hall. Photo courtesy of Bahamas Historical Society. 

 
 

THE STORIES RACE ON IN BAHAMIAN HEARTS

Although Hobby Horse Hall stopped drawing crowds after its closure in 1977, the stories it left behind run wild in the memories of those who once paraded the grounds. Many Bahamians have fond memories of working, watching and strolling around the property as the hooves of the horses thundered around the track.

Former hotelier and casino executive, Ivan James, has chronicled his experiences and preserved memorable tales of the vibrancy of the races in his insightful memoir entitled “The Life and Death of Hobby Horse Hall Race Track”. It highlights the rich history, social network and community that Hobby Horse Hall helped to garner in the 60’s and 70’s, with heartfelt tales of a society that was entranced by its thrilling culture.

DISCOVER CACIQUE | HISTORIC EXPERIENCES

The Hobby Horse Hall property must have passed on its decadent DNA as it is now the home to Baha Mar Resort - a prized stallion in the race for timeless luxury. The legacy of the tracks lives on in The Hobby Horse Nature Preserve, where guests and locals can enjoy nature trails and kayak tours. But the true memories of the races live on in the hearts of many Bahamians who would to see the glamour of the races revived. 

 The entrance of the Hobby Horse Nature Preserve.

The entrance of the Hobby Horse Nature Preserve.

 Taking in the ambience of the Nature Preserve. Photo by: (C) Carolyn Wardle

Taking in the ambience of the Nature Preserve. Photo by: (C) Carolyn Wardle

At Cacique, we love to tell stories about the characters and places that coloured the rich tapestry of our Bahamian history. For more information on historic experiences with Cacique International and to arrange a tour of Hobby Horse Nature Preserve, please contact us.

Looking forward to the next story!  ;)SMS