This week, with the Melbourne Cup rapidly approaching, The Past Present decided it was time to share one of our shots of Randwick Racecourse in Sydney. This photo, taken by an unknown photographer in circa 1936 shows the finish line of a horse race at Randwick, and the spectators gathered together to cheer the horses on.
Although the Melbourne Cup is probably the most famous horse race in Australia, it is certainly not the only horse race, nor is Flemington race course the oldest. Racing had been a popular pastime in early years of the colony and several racecourses had been constructed around Sydney, but by the 1830s they had all ceased operation for various reasons. Hyde Park had therefore remained the main centre of horse racing in Australia, but a dedicated racecourse was needed. In late 1832 a group of gentlemen petitioned Governor Bourke to set aside land near Botany Road, and in 1833, with the land having been surveyed and found suitable, the petition was granted. Racing began at the course, then known as ‘the Sandy Course’ due to the sandy nature of the soil, in Autumn 1833 but by 1838 racing at the course had ceased.
This could have spelled the end for Randwick Racecourse, but in 1858 racing returned. The Australian Jockey Club, which was established in 1842, wanted a place to establish a permanent racecourse with good facilities and petitioned the Government to grant them the old Sandy Course. The grant was allowed, the facilities and track were improved and the first race, held in May 1860, was attended by a crowd of over 6000 spectators. With the extension of the tram service to the course in 1880 the future of the course was assured. By 1900 the tram was so popular that a dedicated loop station was built simply to service the racecourse, and at its peak the trams carried 117,480 passengers in a single day in 1834!
Come back next week to find out more about the history of Randwick Racecourse and for another amazing shot from the collection!