By Christie DeBernardis
Everyone in the horse industry, racing or otherwise, can name that one person who started it all for them. The person who let them pet their pony, or sat them on a horse for the first time, or gave them their initial racetrack experience. For me, that person was a man named Winston Trim.
My father met Winston 32 years ago when he went horseback riding at the Trim family ranch while on vacation in St. Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island located in between Martinique, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados. At the time Winston was just 18 and my father was 36, but they bonded immediately.
After watching Winston gallop down the beach, standing up on his horse’s back with no saddle, my father insisted Winston come back to New York with him. He recognized his talent and wanted to “manage” him.
A few weeks later Winston called and said he had arrived in Brooklyn and the rest, as they say, is history. My father got Winston, who had grown up around horses, a job galloping for his longtime friend and veteran trainer Robert Barbara at Belmont Park.
Winston and my father became the best of friends, brothers really, which made him an uncle to me. It was Winston who first got me involved with horses by introducing my father to a Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse cross named Thunderbolt, who my father decided to buy after the horse ran him into a tree and broke his thumb.
The spirited chestnut only increased the bond between the two friends, taking them on the ride of their lives…literally. Little did Winston know at the time that by putting that horse in my father’s life, he would chart the entire course of my life.
My father brought me to the barn from the time I was old enough to hold up my own head, and the horse most thought was crazy, was a saint when I was on his back. Winston helped my father nurture my love of horses, and eventually racing. It is because of his influence on both my father and myself, that I’m now an accomplished equestrian with a wonderful chestnut horse of my own and a career as a turf writer.
Unfortunately, Winston’s life was cut tragically short Mar. 26 when he was killed in a motorcycle accident just months after his 50th birthday. He leaves behind three children, a loving family and friends who will never be quite the same without him.
I’m sharing this story in the TDN because Winston’s influence and significance extends far beyond my own personal experience. His impact will soon be felt in the international racing community thanks to Teo Ah Khing and the China Horse Club.
One of the first things Winston said to my father when they met on that fateful day 32 years ago, was that St. Lucia needed horse racing and he was going to figure out how to bring it to the country. If you knew Winston, you knew he was a man that was truly larger than life and when he set his mind to something, he would not stop until he made it happen.
Winston did not have any higher education or fancy accolades, but he had spent his life studying horses, was a hard worker and the most determined man I had ever known. It took him three decades, but he found a man who was equally innovative and was not afraid to dream as big as he did. That man was Teo Ah Khing.
Winston reached out to Teo and explained to him why St. Lucia was the perfect place for a racetrack. Teo not only agreed, but found plenty of other aspects of the island nation that would make it attractive for both the Chinese and the international racing community. And with that, the Pearl of the Caribbean was born.
The project, which will be located on 700 acres in the mostly undeveloped southern end of the island known as Vieux Fort, became much bigger than even Winston originally imagined. The racetrack will include top-of-the-line dirt and turf courses, state-of-the-art barns, a quarantine facility, veterinary clinic, lush paddocks and an elaborate grandstand. In addition to the track, the project will also include luxury resorts, waterfront villas, restaurants, a casino, shopping, a marina for cruise ships and much more.
In addition to developing a relatively untouched portion of the island, the Pearl of the Caribbean project will also provide a major boost to St. Lucia’s economy and make a big impact on the very high unemployment rate, which is exceptionally prominent in the 25 to 45 age range. That was a major part of Winston’s vision, helping his people and his beloved country.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of the racetrack in November and thanks to Winston, and the tenacity and determination he passed on to me, I was one of three reporters on the invite list, which included His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales, as well as several international racing dignitaries.
As a member of the racing industry, I was in awe of the magnitude of the project being described to me and the painstaking attention to detail taken to ensure its future success on a global scale. But, as the niece of the man who started it all, I was in awe of my uncle. Watching him work that weekend, hustling back and forth between government officials, the China Horse Club team, family and friends, as his lifelong dream became a reality, I could not have been more proud.
Sadly, most people in racing will never know the name Winston Trim. I can only hope that some of the people who will walk through the gates of St. Lucia’s first racetrack will have stumbled upon this piece and realize the track’s significance because it will be much more than just a racing venue.
The Pearl of the Caribbean will be a new future for an island of kind, hard working people, But, more than that, it will be the culmination of 30 years of one man’s endless determination, hard work, patience, creativity and passion. It will be the legacy of Winston Trim, a man who was not afraid to dream big and never let anyone discourage him.
If things remain on schedule, St. Lucia will host its first official horse race at the end of this year and I’ll be there standing at the finish line. When that first horse crosses the wire, I’ll look up, smile and remember the man who made it possible.
The man who is the reason I stood at the finish line when American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years and when Arrogate shattered his first record in the Travers. The man who is the reason I am able to put my foot in the stirrup every morning and clear my head with a good ride. The man who introduced me to the animal and the sport that became my passion, career and life.
I hope after reading this, some of you–especially anyone that ends up standing beside me at that racetrack–will remember Winston Trim too, and more importantly, will be inspired to pursue your own dreams no matter how big.
Keep on riding, Winston. Because of you, I know I will.