Larger racing purse sought for Kin track

Strained relations haven’t stopped horse racing enthusiasts from turning to local officials for help.

Strained relations haven’t stopped horse racing enthusiasts from turning to local officials for help.

The Okanagan Equestrian Society has asked the Regional District of North Okanagan to lobby the provincial government to increase the purse money to $500,000 so there can be 10 events at Kin Race Track a year.

“If there were 10 days of horse racing, or more, the society could apply for a license to sell the broadcast of races to teletheatre outlets across North America,” said Julie White, a society director.

RDNO and the City of Vernon, which own Kin Race Track, evicted the society Dec. 31, 2010.

The society has taken both jurisdictions to court, claiming equestrian activities were guaranteed when most of the 43rd Avenue track was turned over to the city in 1964 for free.

The society also claims RDNO ignored an agreement for lease renewals.

Because of  the litigation, RDNO has placed the request for lobbying behind closed doors.

“They are a very passionate group and they covered a lot of territory,” said Patrick Nicol, board chairperson.

“The board will take the request into consideration.”

This year, the government provided $50,000 for purses for Kin Race Track.

The society says larger purses are required to draw more racers and boost finances.

“A race track can now earn revenue by both on-track betting and broadcasting its races to teletheatre outlets in other cities,” said White.

“Live horse racing has huge local economic spinoffs. With a longer race schedule, many race horses and their entourages will stay for the extended period, using motels, campgrounds, restaurants, etc.”

The society says it also wants to improve its relationship with RDNO so the track can become a year-round facility and infrastructure is upgraded.

“The reason the facility is in disrepair is because we’re spending all of our money on litigation,” said Ed Woolley, society president.

Both sides are currently trying to resolve the dispute through mediation.

“All parties have an obligation to try and do that,” said Nicol.