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

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.

EquestrianLifestyleSports

Just Posted

Nanaimo artist Dave Stevens is displaying paintings inspired by arbutus trees and the Millstone River at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library from now until the end of fall. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo writer and artist’s work goes up at Harbourfront library

Dave Stevens presents work inspired by arbutus trees and the Millstone River

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Stuffed toys, many with donations pinned to them, are piled in the Lions Pavilion at Maffeo Sutton Park at a vigil May 31 honouring the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered outside a residential school in Kamloops. (News Bulletin file photo)
Thousands donated to child and family service agency following Nanaimo vigil

Toys and money donated to Kw’umut Lelum child and family services

A section of proposed Harbourfront Walkway between White Eagle Terrace and Battersea Road. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo’s proposed walkway extension project estimated at $25-30 million

City asking for feedback on concepts to connect Departure Bay Beach and ferry terminal

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps near Nanaimo

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Small town residents Reed and Dusty, played by drama students Niya Irving and Cole Simpson, contemplate what brought them to a condemned park and what is keeping them there in the Dover Bay Secondary School production of ‘Bethel Park Falls.’ (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
High school drama students present outdoor performance at Nanaimo’s Dover Bay

Production to be staged in school courtyard with in-person audience

Police in Nanaimo hope the public can help find Sarah Duguay so investigators can check on her well-being. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to find woman who called police for help but hasn’t been located

Sarah Duguay, 40, not reported missing, but police want to check on her well-being

Beef to the pet owner who brought his puppy into the cold beer and wine store, where it promptly peed on another customer’s ankle.
Beefs & Bouquets, June 9

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read