From mid-October until early November, horse racing is one of the most discussed matters throughout Australia.
We have had, during the past few weeks, the Caulfield Cup and also the Everest race meetings being held and during the current period of this fortnightly publication the 2019 Melbourne Cup will be run. I guess many of you will be participants a “Sweep” organised locally and I wish you all the best of luck.
Whilst the first recorded race meeting in Sydney was held on the 15th October in 1810 at Hyde Park it is worth noting the Hills and Hawkesbury areas also have a long history of horse racing and it continues in the Hawkesbury at Clarendon. Whilst the Hawkesbury Race Club operates at the Clarendon track, there are records that show a “race ground” at the southern end of the Pitt Town common near the Killarney Chain of Ponds in 1806 that became known as the Windsor Race Course. By 1829 well organised two day meetings were being held with horses coming from as far away as Maitland. The Killarney course became a very popular track between 1830 and 1890 and was reported at the time as “the best meeting out of Sydney”.
Race meetings were also held on Ham Common (from 1834) one mile from Windsor on the road to Richmond, also at North Richmond and annually at Wilberforce for awhile.
William Walker gave a description of a race meeting held on 1st April 1846 “The meeting was run in heats, the best two out of three deciding the winner. They lasted for three days – Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the middle day being generally for small events. The prizes were not for very large amounts, but some very fine horses contested, notwithstanding. Everyone seemed happy on the ground. The course was largely frequently attended by equestrians, male and female, from Kurrajong, Wilberforce , Pitt Town and Lower Hawkesbury. There were picnic parties with everyone bringing hampers. The weather was exhilarating and the governor drove about in a four-in-hand amidst an attracted crowd.”
The Hawkesbury track at Clarendon was built from 200 acres of bushland in 1865 and the first race meet was held in 1871. In almost 140 years, the race club has managed to create a fantastic race track which attracts renowned trainers such as Gai Waterhouse and her horses.
The Hills District also had a race track back in the 1840’s at what is now Yattenden Oval at Baulkham Hills. This track was owned by the licensee, George Coulton, of the “Horse & Jockey Inn” which was located opposite the current “Bull & Bush Hotel” where new units are currently being built.
Horse riding has also been a very popular activity throughout the area. Both the Hawkesbury and Hills districts have been home to many riding schools and still continue to be so. Even in my street there remains a sign that reads “Horse riding on footpath areas forbidden” even though I have lived in the street for over 35 years and have never seen a horse in the street which is very close to the town centre of Baulkham Hills. I can recall in my younger days seeing horse riding taking place in Parramatta Park and much later,and not so very long ago, seeing youngsters riding horses around Dural, Kenthurst, Kellyville and Castle Hill.