June 22, 2017

History of The Geraldton Turf Club

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The Geraldton Turf Club is the oldest Provincial Race Club in Western Australia, forming in 1861 – the same year as another important event in thoroughbred racing in Australia. The first Melbourne Cup was run in that year (won by Archer). At this time the Geraldton Racecouse was known as the Victoria Race Club and was based at Meru, 3-4 miles from Geraldton town.

The first Victoria Cup was run in 1863 and won by Sultana. The first Geraldton Cup run in 1887 over two miles, was won by Baron Nectar, a horse that was transported from Albany by steamer to Geraldton to take part in the race with stake money of 300 pounds ($600).

The move from Meru to the present Utakarra site took place in 1927 with the existing Meru grand stand relocated from Meru. Racing was in recess for a period of time during WW11 (from 1941 to 1944) and the grounds were leased to a local tomato grower. Hack racing was conducted during this period, through to 1968. The first photo finish cameras were installed during this period and 1969 saw the running of the first Geraldton “Gold” Cup. The tradition of having a race meeting in Geraldton on Melbourne Cup Day commenced in 1972 and continues to be an important race date on the Club’s calendar.

In the early 1970’s the new Sunseeker Hotel was under construction. A shed was moved from the Railways Hotel to the Sunseeker site to operate as a temporary bar. On completion of the Sunseeker the shed was dismantled and moved to the Geraldton Turf Club grounds. Known as “The Barn” this building has served as the Public Bar to this day (with a few updates over the years!)
The start of the 1973-74 racing season saw a name change for the Club, from the Victoria Race Club to the Geraldton Turf Club. In 1990 there was consideration given to relocating the Turf Club to a site in South Wandina as some industry people felt the Utakarra area of 87 acres did not allow for expansion. However this move did not go through.

Harness racing was held at the Turf Club for a number of years from 1995. At the end of the 1999-2000 season the club was faced with crippling debt. With the track in what was considered a dangerous condition, racing was suspended in the 2000-2001 season.. With the track under repair the 2001 Geraldton Gold Cup was run in Perth. In 2005 the Club received a substantial grant to upgrade facilities. This included a new entrance, new administration building, jockeys rooms, race day stalls and mounting yards with a new amenities block has also been installed.

In 2011 a function was held to mark the Club’s 150 Anniversary and was attended by a number people who have contributed to the Club over a number of years.
Many people have contributed to the continuing success of the Club including staff (track and administration staff as well as all race day staff), Committee and members of the Club as well as the race going patrons of Geraldton.

In recent years with a race programme of 19 race days from October through to April the Geraldton Turf Club has attracted strong fields and good numbers throughout the season. Under good management the Club’s financial position is also in a much stronger position in recent years.