If Richard Yates ever happens to say, ‘Join the club,’ you might want to listen.

He is an ardent admirer and proud proponent of the Sport of Kings. The man who holds the title of secretary/treasurer for the HBPA of BC also happens to be quite savvy when it comes to attracting others to the sport, too.

Established in 2015, the Hastings Racing Club (HRC) is a unique concept, one that enables those who join the chance to own a share in a thoroughbred.

HBPA, BC Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association (BC TOBA) Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society BC Division (CTHS) and Hastings Racecourse management are partners in the venture.

At $250 per membership, the low-cost, low-risk venture became the toast of the West Coast and beyond last year.

The club’s Square Dancer, a Florida-bred son of Circular Quay, won three races in four starts in Vancouver, including triumphs in the $100,000 Redekop Classic on BC Cup Day and the $75,000 S.W. Randall Plate.

It got even better.

At the 2015 B.C. Thoroughbred Awards dinner, Square Dancer waltzed away with Open Horse of the Year honours. Yates, Club manager, was one of the recipients of the Diamond Award of Excellence, for his contributions to B.C. racing.

“If I had been prescient enough to see how successful the Hastings Racing Club was going to be, I could make a living handicapping or on the stock market,” quipped Yates. “I didn’t see it. I thought we could live with 60 members the first year and that 80 would be a success. We had 200 in five weeks with a wait list.”

Yates still marvels at the front-page press the club garnered.

“The attention, publicity and interest the HRC has generated has been phenomenal,” he said. “It’s not easy to earn media with horseracing these days, at least not on the West Coast and the HRC was news in the news, not just in the sports pages, although there was plenty of that. Print, radio, television on a scale we have not seen locally since the former Hastings rider Mario Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (with I’ll Have Another) and was looking at a Triple Crown shot.”

All of it is deeply rewarding for a man whose passion for racing began decades earlier.

“In the early 1950s, when my family got its first television, horseracing was a major sport and the big race of the week was shown on Saturday,” Yates recalled. “I liked watching and kept up with the sport as best I could. We moved to Los Angeles and I started going to Santa Anita. First day I went was George Royal’s second San Juan Capistrano win and John Longden’s last ride.”

It’s been a thrill ride for Yates ever since.

“My roles have been spectator, bettor, groom, trainer, owner and breeder and, these days, secretary/treasurer for both the HBPA of BC and Canada,” he said. “When you have a life at the track it is like you grew up and got to join the circus.”

And speaking of great entertainment value…

“The original HRC has expanded to three horses and 300 members and we have started a second that we call Club II,” said Yates. “We have a different trainer for the second club and it has over 100 new members already. It will fill up before the season starts and we are not taking members from the original HRC, the idea being to maximize individual participation. There is more interest out there than I ever would have imagined. It causes me to suspect that racing is not reaching everyone that it should.”

All the more reason to, as Yates might say, ‘Join the club.’