About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Garfield Race Club

A meeting of the Garfield Progressive Association was held in December 1901 ‘to consider the advisability of holding a race meeting’. It was decided to hold a meeting on the Recreation Reserve which was in the process of being cleared and fenced, see article from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal, below. In fact, according to other newspaper reports, residents from near and far had met on Saturday afternoons and ‘transformed the old Reserve into something like a decent place’. The track was 1 mile 3 furlongs in length and a grand stand was also planned. The West Gippsland Gazette said the track would be one of the finest this side of the metropolis.

South Bourke and Mornington Journal, December 25, 1901 p.2

The Race Committee consisted of President - Joseph Henry Walker; Vice President and Chairman of Stewards - Charles Pitt; Stewards - Messrs John Daly (the Garfield school teacher), J.T Kelly, Donald, Pitt, Fitzpatrick, William Ritchie and Captain A’Beckett;  Clerk of Course - Mr Shandley; Starter - Mr Pitt; Judge - Mr Walker; Saddle cloth steward - Thomas Hegney; Clerk of scales - Mr Archer; Weigher – Mr S. Walker; Pony measurer -  Mr Fitzpatrick; Handicapper - Mr Smith and  the Hon. Surgeon was  Dr Cowen.

The first race meeting was held on Wednesday, March 12 1902.  The results were: Handicap Trial Stakes over five furlongs - first Iolanthe, second Premier and third Fly; Handicap Novelty Pony race over four furlongs -  Zoe, Palos then Woodbine; Garfield Handicap over 1¼ mile - Nemesis, second Millman (late Harkaway); Galloway Handicap over five furlongs - Palos, Miss Dive then Fairleigh;  Handicap Flying Stakes over 5¼ furlongs - Iolanthe, Nemesis then Millman; District Maiden Hack race over four furlongs - Patamba, Bung Smith then Honesty. The last race of the day was the Consolation race over four furlongs won by Fairleigh, Premier with Honesty third.
I don’t have a record of the prize money for the first race meeting but the prizes for the November 10 1902 race included 5 sovereigns for the Novice Race, Garfield Handicap, Novelty Pony Race and the Handicap Flying Stakes and 3 sovereigns for the Time Handicap Trot. To give some perspective a sovereign was worth £1 and the average person would have earnt less than £2 per week at the time.

The November 1902 race meeting was registered under V.R.C Rules. Other Race meetings held included a meeting in November 1903 with over 50 entries, ‘some of them from the very best stables’. Naturally in those days the horses would have been transported by rail and in The Argus on April 5, 1904 the Garfield Club Secretary complains about the Victorian Railways not providing enough horse boxes on trains, so therefore horses were left behind at railway stations and not able to race at the meetings.

In spite of what sounded like a successful few years the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of December 7, 1904 had an article saying that the Garfield Race Club would be disbanded and another one established. Then a report in the same paper of February 19, 1909 said that on the previous Saturday at the Iona Hotel, ‘a meeting of gentlemen’ decided to form a Race Club with E.J Hattersley elected President; Vice President - Mr M.J Walsh; Treasurer - Mr H.A Hourigan; Secretary - Charles Cail and Stewards were John Daly, Charles Pitt (who was also Starter), M. Walsh, D. Danson, M.Doran  (who was also Clerk of Course); Clerk of scales - Mr R. McNamara; Starter - Charles Pitt  and Judge was Mr C. Pearson. It would be interesting to know why a new Club was formed in late 1904 and another in 1909 - did people just fall out with each other? Did it go broke and have to start again?  It is hard to know 100 years down the track.

In any event, the Garfield Racing Club held a race meeting on March 5 1909 with a prize of £12 for the one mile Garfield Handicap and £10 for the six furlong Welter Handicap. In 1911, the Garfield Club expressed interest in joining the Gippsland Racing Association and race meetings were reported up to 1913, then there are fewer reports of race meetings during the First World War. A Race meeting held in November 1920 had so many horses entered, over 70 horses and ponies had came from Melbourne, that the last race had to be abandoned or else the horses and patrons would miss the special train back to Melbourne at 5.55pm. There were five races on the day, each with two divisions.

In March 1923, a report says that over £400 was spent in remodeling the track and there were reports of Pony Races in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Garfield wasn’t the only race course in the area - around 1907 the Nar Nar Goon Club was established, they held early races on a course in ‘Mr O’Brien’s paddock’ which may have been the same race course which gave Racecourse Road its name.  Bunyip, Iona and Cora Lynn also held race meetings. However, in 1933 the Chief Secretary wanted to curtail the number of race meetings in country areas for the season which was to begin on August 1 and thus at a meeting held on July 10, 1933 Garfield had its races reduced from two to zero, Bunyip three to zero, Iona one to zero and the same for Cora Lynn and Koo-Wee-Rup.  So it was all over for Garfield and these other towns and many other courses close to Melbourne, as this effectively closed these Clubs. A race meeting was held at Pakenham to liquidate the liabilities of the Garfield and Bunyip Clubs in the December 1933. The Nar Nar Goon Race Club survived until 1942.

This information comes from Trove, the National Library of Australia’s digitised newspapers project. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper

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