Preparations are falling into place for the first horse racing event to be held at Desert Park in Osoyoos in more than a decade. The first of two race dates for 2013 is scheduled for Saturday, June 15.
The biggest challenge now is to line up some high-quality horses for the races, said Carol Youngberg, president of the Desert Park Exhibition Society.
The society now has approval for all the necessary licences, including a betting licence, however, some paperwork remains before the necessary certificates are issued, she said.
The society is bringing back horse racing to Osoyoos after an absence of more than a decade and two race days are planned this year.
The first is June 15, with the first race set to start at 3 pm and the second is August 31 at 2 pm. Races include both thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
“Right now we’re in the process of perfecting the site,” Youngberg said, noting work has been underway on stalls, the building including the area for the betting machines, the jockey shack and bathrooms.
All the plumbing had to be redone, but one of the biggest jobs was putting netting over the grandstand building to keep birds out, Youngberg said.
Horses have arrived to start training, with the first horses coming here at the beginning of June, she said.
“They come early to train,” said Youngberg. “They come and just get used to the track and the facility.”
The Interior Horse Racing Association has a race secretary who has been on the phone daily rounding up horses, jockeys, trainers and owners for the event, Youngberg said.
She’s still hoping that others put out the word so the event can attract high-quality horses.
Some members of the public have expressed concern they don’t see work being done on bleachers, but Youngberg said that portable bleachers will be brought in for the events and then removed afterwards.
A number of volunteers have been lined up for various tasks and the society was also able to hire four temporary workers through a provincial government grant program, Youngberg said.
The four are “just incredible,” she said, noting they have been multitasking with carpentry, landscaping, renovating, painting and other jobs.
One responsibility she’s still trying to find a volunteer to fill is someone to organize a children’s activity centre so that children are entertained when parents are watching races.
“We want it to be a family day,” she said.
Meanwhile, the society is looking into using the facility for other events such as concerts.
Youngberg said planning for this is still in early stages and details aren’t yet available, but music and entertainment events could be held there in September.
The attention surrounding the race days has also led to other spinoffs, Youngberg said, with an increasing awareness of the site as a training centre.
Several breeders and trainers have been in contact recently about using the site.
Special to the Chronicle