History Of Australian Horse Racing
Australians love their sport and have always been keen on a punt, so it makes sense that thoroughbred racing has become such a big part of our culture. Even those who aren’t regular racegoers can’t help but be lured by the achievements of icons such as Phar Lap, Black Caviar and Bart Cummings. We don’t call the Melbourne Cup “the race that stops a nation” for nothing! Everyone has racing tips come Melbourne Cup time and it is this significant event that takes a lot of the responsibility for the popularity of horse racing in Australia. But there are plenty of other factors that have helped racing get to where it is today.
The early days
Horses helped make Australia – they were part of the first fleet that landed at Botany Bay in 1788. While their worth as workhorses was apparent, it didn’t take long to begin enjoying the races, just as had been done back in England for many years. Horses were being imported in the late 1700s and early 1800s and their bloodlines became integral in Australian thoroughbreds. Arabians and horses from South Africa and England were among the first to arrive. The first public auction of bloodstock was in 1805 and by the 1830s there were many horses racing.
The first race meets
It was in 1810 that the first official recorded meet was held. It was organised by Governor MacQuarie’s officers and held at Hyde Park, near Sydney, in October of that year. It didn’t take long for official race meets to spring up in other Australian colonies – Tasmania started in 1814, Western Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1838, and Queensland and South Australia in 1843.
Racing needed to be regulated so it was important that official organisations were formed to oversee events. The AJC (Australian Jockey Club) was formed in 1842 and was a major figure in the development of the sport – and continues to be so today. Other states formed key organisations in the 19th Century, often through the amalgamation of smaller bodies. In Victoria, the VRC (Victorian Racing Club) came into being in 1864 when the Victoria Jockey Club and Victoria Turf Club merged. The QTC (Queensland Turf Club) was formed in 1863; South Australia Jockey Club in 1856; Tasmania Turf Club in 1871; and the WA Turf Club in 1852. Today the Australian Racing Board is the main agency and oversees around 400 clubs Australia-wide and more than 30,000 individual races.
Australian racing on the world stage
Horses bred and raced in Australia have gone on to be regarded as some of the best in the world – just think of Phar Lap and Black Caviar. Jockeys have also made a major impact on the world stage, not only through their winning feats in the saddle. In the late 19th Century they pioneered the “crouch” style of riding and today Australia’s elite riders are sought by leading trainers and owners the world over. Not to be outdone, Australian trainers are also highly regarded with legends of the sport such as Bart Cummings and Tommy Smith revered figures in the global racing industry. Of course, iconic events such as the Melbourne Cup, which is regarded as one of the world’s great thoroughbred races, continue to give Australian racing its highest profile. Horse racing tips are undoubtedly the biggest “water cooler” topic throughout the nation come the first Tuesday in November.
The sport has come a long way in 200 years and today it is a major industry Australia-wide. Betting is big business, breeding is an art form and trainers and jockeys are highly successful. Just consider how big it has become – prizemoney Australia-wide now tops a whopping $420 million; there are around 32,000 registered racehorses; more than $14 billion is bet on thoroughbreds each year; and more than 2 million people visit the track each year.