At the Races

Did you attend the Wagga Gold Cup on Friday? Or perhaps the Town Plate the day before?  You may have dressed to impress the Fashions on the Field judges or have had a flutter or two.  In all the excitement, did you ever think about the history around you?  Did you wonder about others who for over a hundred years have stood in the same spot as you, screaming out “Go! Go!” during a race?  The generations of women who, like you, had spent weeks working out what they were going to wear?

Horse racing at Wagga Wagga has a history going back over 160 years.  The Murrumbidgee Turf Club was established in 1860 and five years later the land for a racecourse was dedicated; but even before that, horse racing had been extremely popular in Wagga.  The first recorded horse race was organised by publican Ginger Roberts on St Patrick’s Day 1849 (the main prize was a silver trophy worth 50 guineas) which was before the Village of Wagga Wagga had even been officially gazetted!  And who could forget the legendary (read: notorious) Ten Mile Race of 1868?

A crowd turns out for race day, 1966 (CSURA, RW17)
A crowd turns out for race day, 1966 (CSURA, RW17)
Some well-dressed gentlemen walking towards the MTC Grandstand, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)
Some well-dressed gentlemen walking towards the MTC Grandstand, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)
The busy betting ring at the back of the MTC Grandstand, 1959 (CSURA RW17)
The busy betting ring at the back of the MTC Grandstand, 1959 (CSURA RW17)
A very fashionable lady at the Wagga races in September 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/259)
A very fashionable lady at the Wagga races in September 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/259)
The MTC Gazebo (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/31)
The MTC Gazebo (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/31)
A punter at the Wagga races, 1966 (CSURA RW17)
A punter at the Wagga races, 1966 (CSURA RW17)
A very young-looking jockey at the Picnic Races, April 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/256)
A very young-looking jockey at the Picnic Races, April 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/256)
Fashions on the Field, 1966 (CSURA RW17)
Wagga Fashions on the Field, 1966 (CSURA RW17)
A race meeting at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/253)
A race meeting at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/253)
Two ladies collecting their winnings at the MTC in 1959 (CSURA RW17)
Two ladies collecting their winnings at the MTC in 1959 (CSURA RW17)
The viewing tower at the MTC, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)
The viewing tower at the MTC, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)
An interesting ensemble at the Wagga races, January 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/255)
An interesting ensemble at the Wagga races, January 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/255)
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2 thoughts on “At the Races

  1. From Keith Swan’s History of Wagga Wagga:

    “Brown’s Boxing Day Races (26 December 1850) if they occurred as advertised, were part of an exciting day. There were four horse races, distances unspecified, with entry fees of 1 pound for the first and 10s for each of the others. The prizes offered were generally utilitarian: a new pigskin saddle, bridle and martingale; a pigskin saddle; a patent lever silver watch; and a set of breaking-in tackle, complete.

    ‘On account of the sport to follow’, the horse races were advertised to begin ‘precisely at eleven o’clock’. Afterwards ‘the fun of the day’ would begin with exciting activities for all: climbing a greasy pole for a suit of clothes; running blindfold with wheelbarrows for a hat; jumping in sacks, 200 yards, the winner to receive a coat; and catching a pig with a greasy tail, the catcher to keep the pig. All would eat from ‘A BULLOCK ROASTED WHOLE’, and the sports were to end ‘with a country dance on the green banks of the Murrumbidgee’. Although the banks of the Murrumbidgee are usually brown on Boxing Day, these transplanted British aimed to copy traditional ‘village green’ occasions. To cap it all William Brown advertised ‘Horses and gigs can cross the ferry, gratis, on this occasion. Advance Wagga Wagga!’ As these festivities were held in the New Ferry Hotel’s paddock, Brown hoped to share ‘Wagga Wagga’s advance’.”

    As well as the Boxing Day races in 1850, race meetings were held at the Ferry Hotel on 17 and 18 March 1851, for St Patrick’s Day; and on 21 April 1851 on Easter Monday.

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