Kamloops horse-racing coma gallops on
The supposed hot tip phoned into KTW’s newsroom proved to be nothing but an expansion of the black mark on horse racing in Kamloops.
Yes, there was, as the informant suggested, an Interior Horse Racing Association (IHRA) meeting in the Tournament Capital on Saturday, Feb. 9 — but returning race days to the city was not on the agenda.
“I believe Kamloops is finished,” said IHRA board member Karrie Crucil, president of Princeton Racing Days.
“Most of us have always felt that if anybody should have been able to make it, it would have been Kamloops.”
It turns out the Hub City is just a central location for members of the IHRA board representing cities that still have race days — Vernon, Princeton and Osoyoos.
For the first time in about 15 years, Osoyoos is expecting to host racing — two days, one in June and one in August.
The summer of 2009 saw eight days of big hats and fast thoroughbreds at Sagebrush Downs in Kamloops; the summer of 2010 saw four; and, by the summer of 2011, horse racing had been eradicated from the city.
“Personally, I don’t feel it’s good for us not having Kamloops,” Crucil said.
“I think having all four tracks — Kamloops, Vernon, Osoyoos and Princeton — worked best for the industry.
“It gave the owners and trainers and breeders a circuit.
“When they had their young horses that weren’t quite ready for Hastings Park yet, they could start in Princeton, go to Vernon, go to Kamloops, go to Osoyoos and then go back to the bigger tracks.”
The City of Kamloops handed over the Sagebrush facilities to the Tk’emlups Indian Band several years ago and funding backslid in the transition.
Also among the reasons for the sport’s decline in Kamloops: Online gambling, a lack of purse money and funding from the provincial government, a dwindling number of race horses in the province, B.C. Lottery Corporation’s decision not to have slot machines at Sagebrush and, according to some, including Luigi Sale, the former president of the Kamloops Exhibition Association (KXA), the general public’s waning appreciation for the sport.
“The people now just don’t really care about horse races,” he said.
There are plenty of people who do care, though.
Doug Peterson, a longtime member of the KXA’s horse-racing committee, for example — “It breaks my heart,” he said. “You bet it does.”
Crucil said a fresh start in a new location might be the only way to revive horse racing in the River City.
“There are still lots of people that really hope and dream for Kamloops,” she said.
“Best-case scenario is they need to find a different facility. It would have to be a complete do-over.”
The Tournament Capital Ranch in Rayleigh might prove a suitable spot for a new facility.
There have been preliminary discussions between the City of Kamloops, the KXA and North Thompson Agriplex, said Jeff Putnam, the city’s sport development and business operations manager, but no plans are in place.
“We don’t have an environmental certificate of completion yet,” Putnam said.
“We’d like to get that in the next three to four months.
“We can’t really do any detailed planning until we know it’s safe to do activities there.”