At Random: Race track’s second chapter at the gate

While it won’t see horse races, there may be some life left in the old Kin Race Track lot

Before I extol the virtues of Kin Race Track as the ideal location for a new swimming pool in Greater Vernon, a little history lesson.

Horse racing was once a vibrant sport in the North Okanagan and was so for a century before dwindling to non-sustainable numbers.

I know because for the better part of the summer of 1988, in my broadcasting days, CJIB would record then track announcers Keith Reid and Wayne Penner calling the races from an overflow crowd at Kin Race Track.

That would consist of me sticking a microphone next to Reid or Penner while they announced the race and sending it via telephone back to the CJIB studio for broadcast. I’ve never forgiven Reid for suckering me into a $10 “sure thing” bet on a horse I could have beat around the track, and then having to listen to him try not to laugh as he mentioned said horse being in last place from getting out of the starting gate to the finish line.

This happened every Saturday and Sunday for the better part of July or August, I can’t remember which month. Race cards at Kin in the 1980s usually consisted of nine or 10 races per afternoon with a field of about eight or nine horses. The historic grandstand was overflowing. The beer gardens were crammed. People were lined up along the fences to get a good look at the horses as they came out of the pen. Cars were lined up along Alexis Park Drive and Old Kamloops Road. Thousands upon thousands of dollars were bet every weekend.

And it wasn’t just a one-year thing. No sir. This went on every summer. For decades. Until things like tele-theatre betting, a legal dispute over the track with the City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan and dwindling numbers of horses, and jockeys and owners left Vernon Racing Days scrambling to field a lineup.

In 2013, the last official year of horse racing in Vernon, cards consisted of maybe four or five races, with – if organizers were lucky – five horses in the field. Despite the reduced numbers, the grandstand remained packed.

More people watched horse racing in one afternoon in Vernon than they did a soccer, baseball, football, slo-pitch or rugby game combined.

The next year, 2014, Vernon Racing Days cancelled its opening race card due to lack of horses. A few days later, the grandstand burned down and nary a track announcer would shout “DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME” ever again. We all know that the Okanagan Equestrian Society, which operated Vernon Racing Days, was already into a legal scrap with the city and regional district (started in 2010). The courts ruled in 2018 against the society, which appealed, but dropped the appeal earlier this year. Thus, horse racing is done. All that’s left are the memories of once-vibrant support. The enthusiasm was always there, just not the tools necessary to make it viable.

So the city, back in charge of parks and recreation facilities in Greater Vernon, has now undertaken a feasibility study to scout out locations for new amenities, such as a new swimming pool, and well, by gosh, Kin Race Track is the perfect location. Central, plenty of space for parking and other amenities, a no-brainer. People want a new pool, the race track land is available.

Kin Race Track gave the city 100-plus years of horse racing entertainment. There’s nothing to stop it from providing 100 years of recreation opportunities.


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Read Local Okanagan helps readers discover the valley’s literature

Pop-up bookshop features titles by Okanagan writers

Kelowna RCMP search for missing senior

Cathy Wilson has dementia and was seen leaving her care facility in Rutland

Missing and murdered Indigenous women remembered at Vernon rally

Red Dress campaign honours the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada

Coldstream student spends half his life as Ride Don’t Hide champion

Cole Strilchuk and his family have raised more than $40,000 for local youth mental health

Public tip leads to seizure of drugs and weapons in Vernon

Concerned citizen spots male sleeping in car in residential area

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

Every situation is different, jurors hear at coroners inquest into Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

Pediatrician says involuntary treatment necessary following overdose, opioid use

RCMP across Canada to soon unionize, according to B.C. mayor

A spokeswoman for RCMP headquarters in Ottawa says it’s not yet a done deal

Penticton baby suffers injuries from fall

Emergency crews responded to a report of a fall at a residence at 4 p.m. on June 26

Explicit sex-ed guide for adults mistakenly given to Creston elementary students

The booklet clearly states online and inside that the guide contains sexually explicit information

Driver has $240K McLaren impounded minutes after buying it in West Vancouver

Officers clocked the car travelling at 160 km/h along Highway 1 in a 90 km/h zone

Kelowna’s homeless population doesn’t have much hope of finding a bed at a shelter

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society says 300 people waitlisted for supportive housing

Still months of investigation left into South Okanagan murders

Penticton came to a standstill on April 15, when John Brittain allegedly shot and killed four people

Most Read