Hold your horses on derby racing, but saddle up for barrels.
Kamloops Race Central spokesperson Steven Puhallo said the agri-sport facility at 485 Mt. Paul Way, which remains under construction, will host barrel-racing jackpots this weekend, but bettors will not be gambling on derby races any time soon.
“We have some larger-scale events we’re going to be bringing in, maybe later this year and, for sure, next year,” Puhallo told KTW on Wednesday. “Everything is under construction right now.
“For actual derby races, that’s something that’s far in the future, if it happens again.”
Barrel-racing action will get underway at 1 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.
Floppy hats, colourful dresses, elated and miffed gamblers and the rest of the pageantry that accompanies derby racing have been absent from Kamloops since 2010, when races were last held at the facility.
The property has been predominantly vacant for about 10 years, since the Kamloops Exhibition Association’s lease expired on the Kamloops Indian Band Development Corporation land.
KRC managing partner Jim Cornelsen, who is from Grande Prairie, arrived last May and began the makeover process, along with Quesnel’s Sandra Mulvahill and other helpers. His vision includes breathing life into the agricultural community and providing family-friendly entertainment.
“People were coming up to me and giving me hugs,” Cornelsen said. “I could see there was a real demand for an agricentre here in Kamloops.”
Cornelsen was asked in October about bringing derby race days back to the facility.
“There are so many roadblocks, but I can’t see why I can’t overcome them,” Cornelsen said. “It’s quite a process. I’m working on the funding now. That involves BC Lottery, and different corporations like that have to get involved to make this happen.
“It doesn’t matter where I go, even the lawyer working on the lease said, ‘Is horse racing coming back?’”
In that interview, Cornelsen said the campground was to be operational by Nov. 2, a restaurant was to open, hopefully by January, and plans include opening shops on the premises.
“Everything is still under construction right now,” Puhallo said. “There are campers there now [in the campground], but it’s still under construction.”
Horses of varying types have been training and staying on site over the winter months.
“We’ve got a pretty active barn. People are really enjoying the convenience of the parking and the convenience of having an agri-sport venue this close to town and this easy to get to,” Puhallo said.
“There’s great dirt out here. It’s a great spot to be.”
KRC began holding barrel races last May. Cornelsen said the events became an overwhelming success, with jackpots increasing and more competitors in action as races progressed into last summer.
“This will be the place for people to come and play, hands down,” Cornelsen said. “Kamloops needs it.”
The plan is to rent facilities for all sorts of equine-related events.
“We’ve had a lot of user groups call and inquire,” Puhallo said. “As we build things out, we’ll be working with them to bring more events here to Kamloops.”
Cornelsen is trying to bring Puhallo on as the facility’s general manager.
“He’s been bending my arm about that,” Puhallo said with a laugh.
That partnership, like the facility, appears to be under construction.
“As soon as we get those phases done, we’ll be sending out a [media] release,” Puhallo said. “We don’t have a timeline on that.”