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Horse racing dates fixed
The dates for horse races this summer at Desert Park have now been approved and work is getting underway to fix up the facility.
The first race will be Saturday, June 14, about the same time it was last year. The second race, however, has been moved forward two weeks to Saturday, Aug. 16.
The new August date should make it easier this year to attract horses and jockeys than it was last year when the race was held at the end of the month, says Carol Youngberg, president of the Desert Park Exhibition Society.
“August 16 is a ‘dark day’,” said Youngberg. “We call it a ‘dark day’ when there’s no racing taking place at Hastings Park.”
The new date also avoids conflicts with fall fair dates in the northwest United States, she added. This should make it easier to attract horses and jockeys to Osoyoos than it was last year, when there were only enough for five races on the second date, she said.
“We want to have a minimum of seven races this year,” said Youngberg, adding that prize money on each race will be between $3,000 and $5,000.
An engineer is currently working on an inspection report of the facility and Youngberg said details of the improvements will not be known until that is complete.
One priority, however, is getting bleachers repaired so that they can be used. Last year portable bleachers had to be brought in because an area of older bleachers wasn’t safe.
Last year three employees were hired through a grant program to do some of the facility upgrades and Youngberg said efforts are underway through the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and the provincial government to try to obtain some sponsored workers again.
The Desert Park Exhibition Society is holding its annual general meeting March 31 at 7 p.m. at the Sonora Community Centre and Youngberg hopes that more people from the community will step forward to get involved.
She’s particularly looking for some active individuals to become directors.
In other changes this year, Youngberg said there will be new food vendors, changes to the beer garden and some new entertainment.
The new race dates were tentatively set earlier this year, but Youngberg said the society only received formal approval last week.
Race dates must be approved by the provincial Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, which aims to ensure that horse races in B.C. are well managed.
Meanwhile, winter horse training is well underway at Desert Park and will be continuing until April 15, Youngberg said.
“We’ve got a great turnout and people are pretty happy with the facility,” she said. “Of course when it’s sunny, it’s really popular.”