The sport of kings returned to Osoyoos on Saturday with a five-race card at the Desert Park Race Track.
Under mainly sunny skies and pleasant temperatures, about 1,800 spectators enjoyed beverages, wagering and the sound of 1,300-pound thoroughbreds and quarter horses galloping down the track. Some long delays between races and an unusually large number of scratches didn’t seem to faze the mainly local crowd.
Horse owners traveled to Osoyoos from Washington, Oregon, Alberta and various parts of B.C.
Four of five races offered purses of $3,000, with an extra $3,000 from the American Quarter House Association added for the fourth race, a 330-yard sprint just for that breed.
Most of the purse money was raised by the Desert Park Exhibition Society through a series of fundraisers around Osoyoos.
Society director Pete Hormes explained that between 80 and 90 per cent of the money wagered goes back to the bettors in winnings. A small portion will go toward next year’s purses.
Hormes said Saturday afternoon that the total amount wagered hadn’t been calculated, but that it was probably up a little from last year’s $20,000.
The 440-yard first race was designed for mixed breeds, but ended up being all quarter horses. The other, longer events were thoroughbreds only.
The second race, slated to have five entrants, ended up as two-horse race as one was scratched before the race, another panicked in the gate and withdrew, and the number two horse balked coming out of the final turn and jockey Mikala Harris had to jump clear.
Harris said later she was uninjured except for a possibly broken finger. The main disappointment was that she was unable to ride the three other mounts for which she was scheduled.
Lil Miss Bean out of Hastings Park won the featured fifth race – the Osoyoos Run For the Roses – in an exciting finish.
B.C. Horse Racing Association events like the one in Osoyoos are not the major leagues of racing. But, like the spectators, the owners and trainers take part for the fun, not for the money.
Luigi Sale, a retired body shop owner from Kamloops, had a quarter horse in the sprint race. He didn’t win.
He said he got into raising and racing horses as a hobby. “You’re not going to get rich in horse racing unless you happen to get a really good one,” he said.
There will be one more Osoyoos race day this year on August 16.