Nicky and Norman Wylie get new horse racing club up and running

Sandown Racing Club allows members to own part of a racehorse

  • Jun. 26, 2019 7:30 a.m.

– Story by Lauren Kramer Photography by Don Denton

When Sidney’s Sandown horse racing track closed down in 1992, Nicky Wylie felt the loss acutely. The British-born breeder of thoroughbred horses in North Saanich was one of many who enjoyed the magic and excitement of racing horses, and the closure of the track signalled the sharp decline of the sport she loved.

Determined to revive horse racing on Vancouver Island, Nicky and her spouse, Norman, recently created the Sandown Racing Club, which allows members to own part of a racehorse. The club has three horses which will race between May and October at the Hastings Racing Track, located at the PNE grounds in Vancouver. The club has 85 members so far.

Membership comes at $250 per year and for that, says Nicky, “you get to say you own part of a horse, you get an owner’s license, you get to go in the back stretch of the race track and into the winner’s circle if your horse wins!”

Not all members are knowledgeable about horses and racing, so Nicky is taking it upon herself to educate them about the terminology in weekly emails, where she introduces them to the horses, the art of racing and the many resources on the internet.

“Racing is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” she admits. “It gives the people involved the chance to dream, and there aren’t a lot of dreams in life that are like that.”

Nicky trained and raced horses in Britain before moving to Vancouver Island at the age of 22 with Norman. She promised herself she’d take a six-month break from horses when she arrived, but within three days of stepping off the plane she was riding again, exercising horses for clients, and later, training them.

The trouble with horses, she says, smiling, is that they get under your skin. “When that happens, you can’t let them go — it’s a passion and an addiction.”

The couple rented an historic old house on 10 acres in North Saanich and began training, stabling and racing thoroughbred horses at White House Stables. When they started a family, she stopped racing and focussed on breeding instead.

“To breed a horse of value you need a good pedigree, a great, athletic physical appearance and good athletic confirmation, such as a family history of being a stakes winner,” she explains.

Her first mare, Mascaretta, is now retired but birthed 11 foals since moving to White House Stables. Those foals have sold for anywhere from $4,000 up to $102,000.

“For the folks who bought those foals and raced them, their total earnings are close to $1 million,” she says. “We’ve bred over 100 foals here at White Stables, and 50 thoroughbreds in more recent years.”

The foals are sold at 18 months and Nicky’s are in particular demand.

“Ninety-five per cent of our foals have won a race; it’s a great statistic and one I’m really proud of,” she says. “We have a reputation that when you buy one of our horses, there’s a pretty good chance it will win a race.”

It sounds easy, but breeding horses is hard work, and Nicky and Norman do most of the heavy lifting. They have an alarm to notify them when a horse is in labour, and when that happens the couple is up for as long as it takes to ensure the delivery goes smoothly.

“Watching a foal being born is just magical,” she says. “There’s nothing like seeing it come out, stand up and take its first drink.”

The couple has trained around 200 horses at the stables over the years. One of their favourites was Blackberry Ben, a horse who loved eating blackberries, but also loved the Wylies.

“He was intelligent and competitive,” Nicky recalls. “And he ran so well for us! When he was claimed, he didn’t run well for his new owners. But when we claimed him back a year later he ran well for us again!”

Now sold, Blackberry Ben is living a happy life and enjoying a successful career. That’s the ultimate reward for a horse breeder, Nicky says.

“It can be heartbreaking to sell a horse and find out it’s not in a good home, or that it’s starving. There are lots of versions of hell for horses.”

As membership at the Sandown Racing Club gradually increases, the Wylies are looking forward to recouping some of the magic of racing.

“We wanted to re-energize something that had been lost when the race track closed,” she said. “Before then, a big community was involved and we want to get that back.”

For information visit sandownracingclub.com.

Just Posted

Two monumental poles return home to Haida Gwaii

The artifacts ended up in Vancouver by being taken, appropriated, stolen, or sold through the years

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Haida artist Derek Edenshaw helps Rupert spruce up city

A giant kraken, painted by local artists under Edenshaw’s tutelage, is now on display

Haida Gwaii teacher denied paid bereavement travel leave

Arbitrator sides with B.C. Teachers Federation in dispute over funeral trip

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

Rents in most Canadian cities are unaffordable for lower-income earners: study

Roughly one-third of households, or 4.7 million, are renters

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

B.C. mom to go to Europe court in hopes of getting alleged abducted daughter back

Tasha Brown alleges her estranged wife abducted their daughter Kaydance Etchells in 2016

Scheer on Trump: It’s ‘offensive’ to question the family background of critics

Trump is being called a racist for saying that the four congresswomen should go back where they came from

Instagram expands Canadian pilot removing ‘like’ counts to more countries

Social media giant plans to roll out the test in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Ireland

Pamela Anderson adds star power to B.C. Green Party town hall

Celebrity attended Nanaimo meeting with representatives from U.S.-based environmental group

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Most Read