Racing Days hits finish line

A fifty year old tradition ends as no one steps up to take reins

The 50th running of the Similkameen Cup will never take place.

Karrie Crucil, the last president of the Princeton Racing Days Association, blames a declining horse race industry in general, and technology in particular.

“Computers and technology have hurt it the most,” Crucil said in an interview with The Spotlight, days after the association folded at its second attempt at an Annual General Meeting Friday.

“You don’t have to go out to watch it anymore. You can sit on your couch, turn on your laptop and be betting on the million dollar Dubai Classic.

There were not enough volunteers willing to take board positions at last week’s AGM in order for the Racing Days Association to continue. Crucil stepped down after four years leading the group, for personal reasons, and that left two board members willing to move forward and fill six spots.

Crucil said she was “saddened, disheartened and hurt.” But she was not surprised.

“Not just anybody can do it. You have to have a knowledge of the horse racing industry and a background of what to do.”

Last year there was no para-mutual betting at Princeton Racing Days on the Canada Day long weekend, and while the board brought in other entertainment like logging the event lost money.

The weekend was also poorly attended, said Crucil. “Eight hundred people through the gate doesn’t pay for an event.”

At its most successful Princeton Racing Days was part of a thriving Interior Racing circuit with races also being held in Kamloops, Osoyoos and Vernon.

“My goodness, in the hey day you could have had two to four days of racing [in Princeton].  There are pictures somewhere in your archives taken from the top of the grandstands and vehicles as far as you can see. Two or three thousand people would not be uncommon.”

Crucil said while Racing Days has always been supported by the municiplality and local merchants, it suffered from declines in funding from Interior Racing. Funding decreased from $25,000 in 2011 to $11,000 in 2014. In 2013 it cost $50,000 for the association to host one day of horse racing.

A meeting of interested parties was to be held Monday, January 26th, to discuss ideas for alternative events for Princeton over the Canada Day holiday.

Jen Bernard, who was one of the two remaining Racing Days board members willing to stand for another term, said she is optimistic that Canada Day can still be successful in Princeton.

“There is no reason we can’t have a Canada Day parade. We still have the golf tournament. Everyone keeps saying it’s racing weekend. Call it Canada Day. Call it July 1st, whatever. The horse racing aspect is gone, that’s all.”

As a non-profit association funds still held by Racing Days will be distributed to a group “with similar interests,” said Crucil, although the recipient of any money left over has yet to be determined.

“All I know for sure is we want to do something to help the kids, the youth.”