Work would soon commence on the new Accra Racecourse to replace the current one which is going to be taken over by an internationa1 hotel. Sheikh I.C. Quaye, Greater Accra Regional Minister said this in a speech he read for President J.A Kufuor at the Accra Racecourse last Saturday.
The occasion was The Guinness National Challenge Gold Cup also called the Derby, which some of the finest horses contested. It is the most important in the country's horse racing calendar.
One Step Ahead owned by T.D. Ofori Atta, beat the other horses in a keenly contested event. On the mount was Sanusi Alassan whose late father Isa Alassan was one of the country's finest jockeys.
Dr. Sattout Omar's Sand Ring, which won last year's derby, came second. The President expressed worry at the danger posed by the truncated track at the course and promised race goers that his government would ensure the development of the sport. He recalled that the last time he was at the course a jockey fell off his mount when he was negotiating a sharp bend along the shortened track.
There was an unusually large crowd at the racecourse, which has not been recording good numbers in terms of patronage since the construction of the Conference Centre.
Horseracing started in Ghana in 1876 when British military officers called at Accra and competed with local horse owners ashore. The Accra Turf club was officially opened in 1923. Between 1991 and 1993 it was closed while the conference centre was being built. Since then traditional support for it through sponsorships has returned.
The National Challenge Gold Cup or the Ghanaian Derby is an annua1 affair to determine the champion horse in the country. The cup replaced the Governor-General's Cup and the Governor's Cup. The first running of the Gold Cup took place in 1892. In that year the race was won by TETTEY owned by the late T.P. Bruces and trained and ridden by the Thomas Cochrane. The first winner of the National Challenge Cup was Far Away in 1964 owned by the 1ate Messrs S.E. Shahin and B.M. Bikhazi and ridden by Amadu Hausa.