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Australian Horse Racing Early History - QLD & SA
SOUTH AUSTRALIA - racing in Adelaide had a rocky start with the formation of its first racing club about a year after the settlement was founded. The Turf Club of S.A. held its first official meetings in 1838 but only survived two short years. Several further attempts were made to create a governing body for racing in the state until the South Australian Jockey Club was convened in 1873 under the Chairmanship of Sir John Morphett. Their first race at Morphettville was held 1875, won by Red Gauntlet owned by Thomas Elder. Racing quickly became popular and Totalisator betting was introduced in 1879.
PROHIBITION - when the South Australian government suddenly announced in 1885 that all forms of gambling were illegal, the growing racing industry was immediately shut down. The S.A.J.C. had already accepted nominations for the Adelaide Cup, so rather than abandon it they transferred the race to Flemington. It was won by Lord Wilton (the horse, not the man). South Australian racing appears to have resumed in 1889 and continued to provide entertainment for the people up until 1942, when racing was again temporarily banned - this time in the name of the war effort. One of the people most affected was trainer James Cummings, who ended up leaving the stables to work in a munitions factory. His son, James Bartholomew (Bart) Cummings, tried his talents working in a gentlemen’s outfitting establishment. The world of Australian racing would have looked a little different today if he had liked it - fortunately he didn’t.
QUEENSLAND - the first organized races in Queensland were run at Coopers Plains in 1843, and Ipswich can proudly claim to be the first race venue in the world to install a Totalisator in 1878. The early tote was mechanical and required clerks to deliver tickets to the punters but nonetheless they did the job until automatic Totalisators came along some thirty years later. Ipswich was also the first place to have night racing under lights.
Queensland was also to see another first when Bert Hinkler after making his record flight from England landed at Eagle farm Racecourse in 1928.
Pam O'Neill is credited as being one of Australia's first female licensed jockeys in 1979. She also achieved 2 more firsts on her track debut - riding three winners at Southport and getting her first suspension.
However, there is evidence to suggest that the first woman to ride against men at the races was one Bill "Girlie" Smith. Many people remember Bill riding in North Queensland in the 1940's &1950's, a loner who always arrived wearing his silks and never showered on course. It was not until Bill's death in 1975 that it was revealed that he/she was, in fact, Wilhemena.
BERNBOROUGH - One of the most famous horses to come out of QLD was trained by Harry Plant, a professional Buckjump-rider and horse–breaker. Berborough had an odd start to his racing career, getting banned from racing in Brisbane and Sydney because of a controversy about his ownership. He raced in Toowoomba for his first 4 seasons before being sold to a Sydney Restaurateur. As a 6yr. old. he came with only a provincial record of success but a huge reputation for speed. He won 15 consecutive races out of 18 starts beginning with The Villiers, winning by 5 lengths in December 1945, then the Carrington, Australia Day Handicap, V.A.T.C. Futurity, V.R.C. Newmarket, Rawson Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes, All- Aged Stakes, Doomben 10,000 Doomben Cup, Warwick Stakes, Chelmsford Stakes, Hill Stakes, Melbourne Stakes and Caulfield Stakes. He carried top weight in all these races and his run ended with a 5th in the Caulfield Cup 1946. After a leg injury he was retired to stud in America owned by Louis B. Mayer, where he carved out a successful stud career as a Hollywood Hunk. It’s a long way from Toowoomba.
GUNSYND THE GOONDIWINDI GREY - although foaled in N.S.W., he was purchased for a song by four ‘Bushies’ to race in Goondiwindi. Originally trained by Bill Wehlow he was sent to Tommy Smith and in 1972 won the Cox Plate (ridden by Mr. Roy Higgins), the Doncaster, the Epsom, the George Adams and the Toorak. His enormous popularity came from not only his winning ways but from his playing up to the Crowd. While he was a tiger on the track with a will to win, it is said that after a win he would refuse to leave the track until the cheering had reached a suitably deafening level, at which time he would bow to the people and then go to the winners stall. He loved having his picture taken and would snuggle up to any admirer for a photo opportunity.
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COLIN HAYES – the most significant trainer in South Australian racing history was Colin Hayes. He established the Lindsay Park stables and Stud in the Barossa Valley in 1965, one of the few trainers to take his horses away from the traditional training ground of a city track. Colin Hayes retired from an extraordinary 43 year career in racing in 1990, having been the leading trainer in Victoria from 1977/’78 to 1989/90. His son David Hayes took up where he left off, taking the stable to even greater heights in Australia until he decided to take his training skills to Hong Kong. While he was away, control of Lindsay Park went to his brother Peter, who took four Melbourne training premierships and five Adelaide premierships before his tragic death in a light plane crash in 2001. Assistant trainer Tony McEvoy successfully stepped in to train for three years until David returned to Australia.
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