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Australian Horse Racing Early History - New South Wales
THE EARLY DAYS - Horse Racing began in Australia almost as soon as the first settlers arrived. In 1788, when Governor Phillip landed, he brought with him a stallion, three mares, and three yearlings. Soon after first arriving on the convict ship Boyd in 1809, the Officers and gentlemen of the 73rd Regiment in New South Wales were ready to stage the first official horse race of the growing colony at Sydney’s Hyde Park in October 1810.
By modern standards it was an odd sort of event. It consisted of a two mile race run on each of three days commencing Monday the 15th Oct., then 17th Oct. and 19th Oct., with all horses competing in every race and the winner deemed to be the one with the best overall performance. The winner of the first race was Chase ridden by Captain Ritchie, the overall winner was Scratch, a black horse, the owner receiving a Purse from the Governors wife. Labourers in the colony were given the days off work to go and see the races and a pattern of racing and partying in Australia was established.
The first horses ever seen in New Zealand came from Australia in 1814, excitedly described by one Maori as ‘men riding on large dogs and others being pulled around in land canoes’. His fellow Maoris thought he had gone mad and told him not to tell lies. Further importations went on until the Champion stayer Sir Hercules went to N.Z. in 1843, helping to establish the breeding industry which continues to provide Australian racing with most of its staying stars.
NEW SOUTH WALES - Sydney’s first racing club was the Sydney Turf Club, founded in 1825. Due to racing’s growing popularity, Governor Bourke designated land on Botany Rd, Randwick, for use as a racecourse in January 1833. The winner of the first Governors Cup was the well bred Whisker. He was later to sire a horse called Jorrocks - who was not broken in until a 4yr., had been first used as a stock horse and didn’t start racing seriously until he was 8. He was known as the Iron Horse and is on record as starting in 88 races, 60 of which he won.
In 1842 the Australian Jockey Club was formed and one of their first moves was to insist that jockeys were properly attired in an official uniform. In 1859 The A.J.C. brought out the Revised Rules of Racing which covered among other things Weight for Age system of weights calculation, and that the horses birthday in Australia would be 1 August. This was in effect the first standard system in the country and was rapidly copied by the rest of the racing community. Originally based in Homebush they moved to Randwick in 1860 and in 1863 they rented Randwick Racecourse from the Crown for the very reasonable sum of “One black peppercorn per year payable on demand” They held their first A.J.C. Derby 1861 which was won by Kyogle. The race showcased some legendary winners over the years including Phar Lap, Tulloch, Dulcify, Kingston Town, Strawberry Rd., Bonecrusher, Mahogany, Octagonal. The 1918 Derby was won by Gloaming who was famous in his day for winning 19 races in a row and had a record of 57 wins from 67 starts.
In 1944, the new Sydney Turf Club came into existence and acquired Rosehill and Canterbury. By 1946 the S.T.C. installed the first photo-finish camera at Canterbury and among other famous races began the Golden Slipper in 1957 for 2yr. olds. That first race was won by Todman and among the famous winners you can find Luskin Star, Manikato, Marscay, Rory’s Jester, Marauding, Flying Spur. All would go on to significant stud careers.
In 2011 The STC and the AJC merged to form the Australian Turf Club.
T. J. 'TOMMY' SMITH - Tommy smith began training in New South Wales in 1942 with a horse called the Bragger, whose first race didn’t go that well. He is said to have finished last by a furlong, but Tommy didn’t give up and finally got the horse to win after three years work. Smith then went on to get really good at the game. He was the leading trainer in N.S.W. from 1953 to 1985 - an incredible 35 years. His notable achievements include:
2 Melbourne Cups
4 Caulfield Cups
7 W.S.Cox Plates
6 Golden Slippers
His daughter, Gai Smith, went to the U.K. to pursue an acting career but eventually returned to get involved in the family business. Gai married Robbie Waterhouse, of the famous Waterhouse Bookmaking family, and as Gai Waterhouse has become a top Trainer in her own right. Since 1997, Gai has been leading trainer on at least 6 occasions, battling with John Hawkes for training supremacy in New South Wales.
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