Horse racing draws thousands

Roy Wood

Horse racing in Osoyoos featured a trifecta of racing styles on Saturday, with quarter horse, thoroughbred and harness racing on the same card.

Close to 2,000 people enjoyed sunny skies and warm temperatures - along with parimutuel betting and a beer garden - for the second and final race day of the summer at the Desert Park Race Track.

The first-ever harness racing event in the town was part of the Desert Park Exhibition Society’s campaign to increase its profile in B.C. racing circles.

“We would like to be a player in the B.C. horse racing industry,” society chair Carol Youngberg said.

She said the B.C. Standardbred Association, the governing body for harness racing, is looking to expand its reach beyond Cloverdale. 

Kamloops and Osoyoos are two of the leading candidates to be added to the mix of racing sites.

The final two of seven races on Saturday featured standardbreds, in which a horse pulls a cart with a driver. One technical issue was that the track had to be packed after the thoroughbreds so that the wheels of the carts weren’t slowed by the soft soil preferred by quarter horses and thoroughbreds.

Standardbred breeder Sandra Roberts said she and other harness racers are excited about the possibility of venues other than Fraser Downs in Cloverdale. 

She and the owners at Desert Park on Saturday were not competing for a purse, but just putting on an exhibition as part of the campaign for more venues.

Roberts has been a standardbred owner for 15 year and says it’s more for the love of the sport than the promise of riches. A good horse can pay its own way and perhaps make a little profit, but one won’t get rich in harness racing, she said.

Thoroughbred owner Irene Johnson, who’s Western Who won the third race, said she enjoys the Osoyoos venue. “We love it here. We love to support B.C. Interior Horse Racing Association.”

There was one minor spill on Saturday, as My Chief decided in the middle of the clubhouse turn to head for the barns rather than the finish line. Jockey Rocky Timentwa was able to get clear of the horse before it went down. He was particularly upset because he was in the lead at the time. 

Timentwa was unhurt and said he saw My Chief up and walking, so he was probably not hurt either. With an icepack on his head, he aid he would race as scheduled in the fifth race.


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