Sandown Racing Club seeks new members who, for $250, can share in the trials and tribulations of a trio of horses’ seasons.
The fee is the equivalent of one day’s training costs and allows members to join a lively community who watch the horses track-side and online. The club has a diverse membership, including those who love horses and others who just want a fun day out.
Nicky Wylie, co-owner of White House stables where the horses are bred, is the club’s manager.
“We want to offer excitement, it’s a wonderful experience,” she says.
The horses are trained by Mary-Ann Baumgartner and ride in the club’s own colours.
The club is limited to 200 people and a third of the places have already been taken up. At the end of the season, if the horses have made a profit, winnings will be shared among club members. If they are in deficit, White House stables say they will cover the full cost.
The club has embraced technology, and members are kept informed through a private Facebook group and email list. Once members sign up they are encouraged to join Equibase, a website where users create a virtual stable and receive regular statistical updates about their horses.
“We’ve got all types of people, some who love horses and some who want fun, some who like a little gamble too,” she says.
Vancouver Island has a history of racing, although the pastime has declined in recent years. Horse racing took place at Beacon Hill Park from the mid-1800s and Sandown was once a racetrack in North Saanich.
White House has bred 50 horses over 30 years, with a 93 per cent win rate. Over that period their horses have gone on to win $2 million and a range of accolades, including Brood Mare of the Year B.C., Horse of the Year B.C., Horse of the Year Washington State, and winning races with individual prizes of $100,000.
The stables breed and handle horses before selling them to owners who pay for professional trainers and race them across the world. Any winnings go to the owners, and these can be substantial.
One of White House’s best mares, Mascaretta, gave birth to 11 foals, all of whom were sold and raced. Their combined winnings totalled $1 million, with Mascaretta’s most successful progeny winning $400,000.
The stables keep a proud eye on their charges from afar and Wylie believes the club will allow members to share in the excitement of seeing the horses develop and win.
“Even when the horse is sold and belongs to somebody else, we still think of it as our horse. It’s like your child married to somebody else but it’s still your child,” she says with a laugh.
The three horses Sandown Racing Club intend to keep and race will be put on their website soon.
In a nice arc of symmetry, a vast acreage behind where the old Sandown racetrack once stood was donated to North Saanich by the Randall family. Bill Randall is founding member number one of the Sandown Racing Club.