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

Home loss ends Vernon Vipers’ long weekend win streak

The Vernon Vipers ended the three games in three nights weekend with two wins, one loss

Family Day move a welcome change: poll

Okanagan readers voted that the new date for Family Day in B.C. is a positive change

Interior Savings looks to hand out bursaries

Applications open until Feb. 28

Vernon art gallery turns out the lights and throws a party

DJ, drinks and food at Art After Dark Feb. 23

A Mother’s Wish: Ryan Shtuka’s mother wants her son to be ‘forever known’

‍‍‍‍‍“Let me tell you a story …. it all began with a boy named Ryan”

Homicide police investigate assault turned deadly in Surrey

60-year-old man died at hospital after assault

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

B.C.’s top young skiers hit Sovereign Lake for Championships

Midget-age racers came from across the province

PHOTOS: Cracker Invitational at Swan Lake sees crowd

More than 30 enthusiasts met at Swan Lake Sunday

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Len Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Skate with the Vernon Vipers

Upcoming stars took to the ice with the Vernon Vipers Sunday

Most Read