Horse racing is fading toward the finish line in Kamloops since it peaked in the mid-1990s, a former member of the Interior Horse Racing Association said Tuesday.
Doug Peterson said part of the decline is due to the plethora of other gaming options people have, from casinos to online gambling in their homes.
Adding to that is the fact the City of Kamloops handed the facilities over to the Tk’emlups Indian Band several years ago, and funding fell off in the changeover.
“It’s too bad, because horse racing is a huge economic spinoff, from the feed stores to the farms, to the vets, to hotels and restaurants,” he said.
So far this year, the association has three days of racing booked in Vernon and one for Princeton. It’s a big drop from the mid-1990s, when racing was in its heyday.
“We used to have 40 days on the Interior circuit, and 18 of them were here,” he said. “We used to have a peak of 300 horses to work with.”
On Monday, Tk’emlups Indian Band Chief Shane Gottfriedson said horse racing in Kamloops is dead.
Peterson said the grandstands have been torn down at Sagebrush Downs on the Mount Paul Centre property, the horse stalls removed and all that’s left to house the animals is the main barn.
“To put racing on in Kamloops, you’d have to put some dollars into it,” said Peterson, who used to race and train horses himself.
KXA director Fred Pain agreed horse racing is finished in Kamloops, but the sport has been disappearing in B.C. as well due to competition from other gambling forms.
However, the KXA board has moved its equipment to the City’s slo-pitch facility at Rayleigh and he’s hopeful an agricultural complex will be built and operated there.
“The KXA is finished at the Mount Paul Centre. We have moved our assets to the Rayleigh property, the City of Kamloops property out there, and we’re working with the City about that,” he said.
“I’m hoping we can at least get a new facility for agriculture and move on. We need an ag facility. There’s a lot of horse people and different events, rodeos, we should have in Kamloops.”
Pain said the KXA board and volunteers are enthusiastic about setting up in the new location. In the meantime, the mainstay Provincial Winter Fair will continue to be held in Barriere, as it was last year, until new facilities are built.
“I think it’s doable. We have the property out there. Everyone’s enthusiastic about getting it started,” he said.