Thoroughbred Horse Racing
is an important spectator sport
, and gambling
horseraces is a popular pastime with about AUD
$12.5 billion wagered annually with bookmakers and
the Totalisator Agency
(TAB). The two forms of Thoroughbred horse
in Australia are flat racing
and also races over fences or hurdles in Victoria and South
racing is the
third most attended spectator sport in Australia, behind Australian rules football
, with almost two million
admissions to the 330 racecourses
Australia in 2007-2008.
On an international scale Australia has more racecourses than any
other nation. It is second to the US in the number of horses
starting in races each year. Australia is third, after the US and Japan for the
amount of prizemoney that is distributed annually.
Racing in Australia is administered by the Australian Racing Board
, with each
Principal Racing Authority agreeing to abide by, and to enforce,
the Australian Rules of
Besides being a spectator sport, horse racing is also an industry,
which provides full- or part-time employment for almost 250,000
people, the equivalent of 77,000 jobs. About 300,000 people have a
direct interest as owners, or members of syndicates in the 30,000
horses in training in Australia.
interest in Thoroughbred racing, especially during the main
spring and autumn
racing carnivals, has been growing in recent years with over
100,000 attracted to the running of the Melbourne Cup, the Victoria Derby
and the VRC Oaks race meets.
Golden Slipper Stakes
and W S Cox Plate
are also major attractions.
Australia's first horses arrived on 26
January 1788 aboard boats in the First
Fleet at a location that was later to become part of Sydney, New South Wales.
(Young) Rockingham was one of the first
bloodhorses to be imported into Australia, in c.1797. In 1802 the
stallion, Northumberland and an English mare were imported,
followed shortly after by Washington, a stallion from America.
(Old) Hector, was an important Arabian
that was imported to Australia in c.1803 and whose
bloodlines have survived in Australian Thoroughbred pedigrees.
Northumberland and Hector were the two leading sires in Australia
until 1820. These sires and a number of other Arabian stallions
contributed to the breeding up of the bloodhorse population prior
to 1825. Manto imported in 1825 was the first General Stud Book
mare, now known by name, to arrive in Australia. Her family is
still producing winners. In 1826 the Thoroughbreds, stallion Peter
Fin, plus mares Cutty Sark and Spaewife were imported.
The first recorded public auction of bloodstock took place in 1805.
After the 1830s more English bred horses were imported and racing,
as more racing clubs were formed in the country areas of New South
, born in 1879, was the most versatile
Australian Thoroughbred racehorse winning classic races on the flat
and the VRC Grand National Hurdle before becoming a good sire.
Zealand bred Carbine was one
of the early champions of the Australian turf and was later
inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of
Fame and New Zealand
Racing Hall of Fame.
His descendants, the New Zealand
bred horses, Phar Lap
(the first horse to win more than
₤100,000 in Australia) also became champions of the Australian
, Kingston Town
(bred in England) were other champions that were inducted
into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Australian Thoroughbred breeding has long been involved in the
importation of horses, especially from Europe and later the US.
Initially the British importations were identified with (imp) or an
asterisk (*) added as a suffix to indicate that they were not
locally bred. With advent of importations from other
countries and the use of shuttle stallions that stand at stud in
Australia during the northern hemisphere’s winter, these suffixes were replaced by an
abbreviated country suffix.
These took the format of (USA),
(GB), (IRE) and (FR) etc.
Throughout its history, horse racing has become part of the
Australian culture and has developed a rich and colourful language
Early race meetings and clubs
Royal Randwick Racecourse with Sydney
skyline in background
Horse racing had become well established in and around Sydney by
1810. The first official race meeting was organised by officers of
Governor Macquarie's visiting 73rd Regiment and held at Hyde Park,
Sydney in October 1810. The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) held their
meetings at Homebush from 1842 to 1859, before moving to Randwick
in 1860. The AJC have their headquarters at Randwick where they
play a major role in the regulation of the sport. The Sydney Turf Club
(STC) was formed in 1943
and races on the Rosehill Gardens track and at Canterbury. This
club was the instigator of the world’s richest two-year-old race,
the Golden Slipper
In Victoria the first official races were held in March 1838 on a
specially marked out course in Melbourne at Batman's Hill. The
Victorian Racing Club (VRC) was formed from the amalgamation of the
Victoria Jockey Club and Victoria Turf Club in 1864.
Queensland’s first recorded race meeting was held at Cooper’s
Plains in 1843. The major race club, the Queensland Turf Club
(QTC) was formed
in 1863 followed by the Brisbane Amateur Turf Club (BATC) in
South Australia’s first meeting was held at Adelaide in 1843. The
principal race club the South Australian Jockey Club
(SAJC) was founded in 1856.
Organised racing was first held in Tasmania in 1814 at Newtown,
near Hobart. The Tasmanian Turf Club (TTC) was formed in 1871 but
the major club, the Tasmanian Racing Club (TRC) was not established
Thoroughbred racing commenced in Western Australia in 1836. The
Western Australian Turf Club (WATC) was established in 1852.
By 1883, 192 country clubs were registered to race under Australian
Jockey Club rules.
Territory, the Darwin Turf Club was established in May
Breeders and stud farms
The early breeders of Australian bloodstock were men of historical
significance such as Robert Campbell
Lieutenant William Lawson
Charles Smith established Bungarribee stud at Doonside, New South
Wales, shortly after 1830, which only had pure-bred English horses.
It was Charles Smith who bred the great colonial stallion, Sir
Hercules who was foaled in 1843.
James White (1828-1890), owner of Kirkham Stud, was one of the most
successful owner/breeders in Australian racing with his horses
winning two Melbourne Cups, six VRC Derbies and five AJC
The three eastern mainland states supply 85% of Australian
racehorses with the Hunter River
being the favoured region for Thoroughbred horses in NSW. In
Queensland the Darling Downs
major nursery. Hurtle Fisher’s Maribyrnong Stud was a famous stud
in Victoria where expensive imported horses were used until it was
dispersed in 1866. The St Albans Stud at Geelong,
established in the 1850s and was still operating over 100 years
owned and trained by James Wilson at this stud.
The Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley, NSW was established by John
Thompson in 1867. Since then Widden Stud has been home to some of
the finest stallions and broodmares including the following who
were all at various times Australia's champion sire; Lochiel (four
times leading sire), Grafton (four times), Maltster (five times),
(three times), Vain
(once) and Marscay (twice). Heroic
were other famous Widden stallions.
The stud has had a seven generation unbroken chain of ownership
under the Thompson family.
Percy Miller (1879–1948) in 1914 established Kia Ora Stud
just east of Scone. Miller
imported the leading sire, Magpie (GB) who ran second in the
English 2000 Guineas. This stallion sired Windbag, Amounis
and Talking. Kia-Ora had the leading
imported sires, Midstream and Delville Wood who sired champions,
(exported to US), Delta,
Hydrogen and Evening Peal etc., plus a superb band of brood
Stanley Wootton exerted his major influence on Australian racing
when he imported the legendary stallion Star Kingdom
, now recognised as the most
influential sire line in this country. Wootton also bred the
are some of the best in
the world and were among the first in the world to experiment with
the crouched riding style. In the late 1800s Tot Flood and James
Barden pioneered this crouch style in Australia independently of
the American, Tod Sloan, after whom the style was named. Australian
jockeys have successfully ridden on racecourses across the world.
Some of the notable jockeys include, Scobie Breasley
(four times British champion
jockey), Edgar Britt
, Mick Dittman
, George T. D. Moore
, Neville Sellwood, Harry White
and Bill Williamson
1850s amateur “ladies only” events were held in Victoria,
Australia but women were not permitted to ride as
professional jockeys or on professional tracks. Although women jockeys
were still barred from riding in the mid-1900s Wilhemena Smith rode
as Bill Smith at north Queensland racecourses.
During 1974 the VRC permitted female jockeys to be registered for
professional “ladies only” events. Pam O’Neill and Linda Jones, in
1979, were the first women jockeys that were licensed to compete in
registered races against men.
notable trainers in Australia are Bart
Cummings (trainer of 12 Melbourne Cup winners) and Tommy
Smith who had won 30 successive Sydney Trainers’ Premierships
prior to his death.
Other successful trainers include
, Colin Hayes
, David Hayes
, Etienne L. de Mestre
and Gai Waterhouse
In 1962 Betty Lane applied to the AJC for a metropolitan trainer's
licence but was refused as “it's not our policy to licence women.”
After the refusal she became a successful premiership winning
trainer in the Western Districts of NSW, where she was permitted to
train. In 1982 Betty Lane became the first woman trainer with a
Number One Trainers Licence.
Stud books and registrations
The Stud Book of New South Wales by Fowler Boyd Price published in
1859, was the first official attempt to document the pedigrees of
the colony's bloodhorses. The Victorian Stud Book was then
published in Volumes 1-2 which were edited by William Levey to the
year 1864 and volumes 3-4 edited by William Cross Yuille
to the year 1874.
The Australian Stud Book (ASB) began in 1878 as a private venture
by A. & William C. Yuille, Melbourne bloodstock agents who
published nine volumes. New Zealand horses were included in the ASB
until Volume VII appeared in 1900. The copyright was sold in 1910
to the AJC and VRC who now administer matters concerning the
breeding of racehorses.
The outstanding ASB online database contains the records of over
860,000 horses, which includes every Australian foal born since
1972. This database includes 28,000 winners of major races in
Australia and around the world. A 3,000 plus pages, printed version
of volume 42 of the ASB contains the breeding records of 43,000
mares and 70,000 of their named offspring.
In the 1880s it was decided that all Thoroughbreds in Australasia
should have their official ages calculated from 1st August.
The Registrar of Racehorses controls the naming, registration,
leasing and transfers of all horses racing in Australia. Racehorses
must be registered to race, but do not have to be purebred
Thoroughbreds in order to be registered and race in Australia.Prior
to 1980 it was not uncommon to see a racehorse registered as "by an
unidentified sire out of a station mare". During 1980 it was
regulated that horses without registered parents could not be
The registration of racing colours is also handled by the Registrar
Administration of racing in Australia
Racing in the Australian continent is governed by the Australian Racing Board
. This body
supersedes the power of the principal clubs, which were once the
sovereign body of racing in every state until government reforms
introduced separate governing bodies for the industry. The board is
constituted of the various principal racing bodies in each state.
The board is directly responsible for establishing the rules of
racing (subject to additional local rules), the establishment and
maintenance of the pattern racing committees, responsible for
grading races and allocating black type status, as well as
establishing a number of advisory groups to attempt to maintain
uniformity in procedures between states and establish an accepted
national racing calendar.
The setting for the VRC Derby
Victoria is considered to be the home of racing in
Australia, with international races like the Melbourne Cup.
The governing body is Racing Victoria Limited
principal club is the Victoria
Racing Club, which races at Flemington; the two other metropolitan clubs are the Melbourne Racing Club, which races at
Caulfield and Sandown, and the Moonee Valley Racing Club, home of
the Weight for Age championship of
Australasia, the Cox Plate.
boasts many top-class provincial and country racecourses including
Cranbourne, Mornington, Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Mildura, Stony Creek,
Wangaratta, Warrnambool and Moe.
New South Wales
Wales is governed by Racing NSW. The principal clubs
are the Australian Jockey
Club, which races at Randwick and Warwick Farm and the Sydney Turf
Club, which races at Rosehill Gardens and Canterbury Park.
The state's major provincial tracks are
Newcastle and Kembla Grange, which alternate their meetings every
second Saturday. Other notable tracks include Hawkesbury, Gosford
and Grafton which hosts the largest race carnival in Australia
outside of a capital city.
Australia is governed
by Thoroughbred Racing S.A.
Limited. The principal club is
the South Australian Jockey
Club, which races at Morphettville, Cheltenham and Victoria Park.
Additionally, the Oakbank
Racing Club holds an annual carnival with its two meetings on
Easter Saturday and Easter Monday.
Queensland is governed by the Queensland Thoroughbred Racing
Board, and the principal clubs are the Queensland Turf Club, which races at
Farm, and the Brisbane Turf Club, which races at
Outside of Brisbane, meetings are held each
Saturday at the Gold Coast and Toowoomba racecourses.
Australia is governed by Racing and Wagering
Western Australia, which is a government-owned body.
racing club, Western
Australian Turf Club now known as Perth Racing, holds racing at
Park and Ascot Racecourse.
Belmont Park Race course, Perth's
Other popular courses with feature races in Western Australia are
Bunbury, Pinjarra, York, Geraldton, Albany, Kalgoorlie and
The most popular race is the Perth Cup
held each New Year's Day
There are three Group One
contended, being the Railway Stakes, the Kingston Town Classic
, and the
Tasmania is governed by the Tasmanian Thoroughbred Racing
Council and the principal club is the Tasmanian Turf Club.
Tasmanian meetings every Sunday usually alternating between
Racecourse near Hobart, Tasman Park
near Launceston and Spreyton, Devonport.
Territory is now governed by Thorougbred Racing NT (formerly
the Darwin Turf Club, which races at Fannie Bay.)
Australian Capital Territory
the Australian Capital Territory is governed by the principal club, the Canberra
There are four main avenues for race
in Australia. Licensed on-track bookmakers
offer fixed-odds betting, mostly on
wins and places. Off-track betting was traditionally controlled by
the various state government through organisation called
"Totalisator Agency Boards" (TAB), which offered mainly parimutuel betting
- that is, the odds
were not fixed but involved "the house" taking a fixed cut and
distributing the remainder amongst people who made a winning bet.
Many of these "TABs" have now been privatised, and many pubs
now offer betting services linked to the privatised
offshoots of the companies. In some parts of Australia there was a
tradition of illegal off-course bookmaking, known as SP bookmaking
significant turnover, though it is unclear whether this is still
the case. Finally, there is online person to person exchange betting
, where members set their
own prices and pay a percentage of their winnings in
In 1913 one of the major developments in race wagering, the
, which allowed the
automatic calculation of race odds given betting patterns, was
invented in Australia by George Julius
Facts and figures for season 2004-05
- Race clubs: 391
- Racecourses: 364
- Race meetings: 2,745
- Total races: 19,968
- Trainers: 5,080
- Jockeys: 1,043
- Bookmakers: 610
- Number of drug tests: 32,003
- Number of positive cases: 51
- Group 1 races: 66
- Group 2 races: 83
- Group 3 races: 112
- Listed races: 281
- Stallions: 916
- Mares: 27,882
- Live Foals: 17,178
- Gross Yearling Sales: AU$253
- Average sale price: AU$52,232
- Champion Sire: Danehill
Prizemoney and earnings
- Total Prizemoney: AU$362 million
- Leading Prizemoney Earner: Makybe Diva
- Total number of race horses: 31,037
- Number of horses which earned over $100,000: 507
- Number of horses which earned less than $2,000: 13,715
- Number of horses with 4 or more wins: 727
- Number of horses with 0 wins: 19,031
- Totalisator: AU$8,764 million
- Win: 46.6%
- Place: 16.0%
- Trifecta: 19.4%
- Quinella: 5.9%
- Doubles: 2.6%
- Other: 9.5%
- Bookmakers: AU$2,937 million
The season's winners
Elite and Black Type Racing in Australia
The Australian Pattern Racing Committee is responsible for grading
races under the auspices of the Australian Racing Board.
Traditionally, until the late 1970's, a series of stakes races were
recognised as black type but there was no grading of races within
this grouping. Historically, handicaps have been extremely popular
among Australian punters, owners and industry participants. As a
result a large number of handicap races still exist within the list
of group and listed races. Small efforts have been made to
downgrade handicaps and promote set weights and weight for age
races however the strength of fields that most handicaps attract
make them better punting races than possible under even
As the largest racing country in the world, Australia has 66 of the
worlds 193 Group One races, recognised by the International
Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
By tradition many state races have maintained higher gradings than
they would otherwise be entitled to because of the poor quality of
horses participating in them. The rapid growth in the Victorian and
to a lesser extent, New South Wales racing carnivals has made the
leading races of the other states less competitive in prizemoney
and as a result prestige.
Given the self-interest of each state forming the Australian Racing
Board, progress in properly grading races has been slow and
controversy is often found in the decisions taken by the Pattern
Racing Committee. In recent years, change has been occurring as the
Pattern Racing Committee has taken a more scientific
Criticism is also often made of a trend towards the promotion of
sprint races over staying races. Many traditional staying races
have been reduced in distance significantly over the last 30-40
years. Many parties have called for staying races to be given
special dispensation in on-going reviews of race classifications to
allow for a current lack of depth to encourage breeding and thus
further depth in future.
The group 1 races (and selected other races) in Australia can
generally be split into 3 groups, Australian races,
state/city/track races and historically significant races.
- AJC Easter
- 2,400m - 3yo
- AJC Easter
- 2,400m - 3yo
- VRC Autumn Carnival
- 2,000m - Open
- VRC Autumn Carnival
- 1,600m - 3yo
- Moonee Valley
- 1,200m - Open
Australian Sires Produce
- AJC Easter
- 1,400 - 2yo
,Victoria Sires Produce
,Moonee Valley Cup
New South Wales Races
,Storm Queen Stakes
,QTC Sires Produce Stakes
South Australian Races
,SAJC Sires' Produce
,Port Adelaide Cup
,Port Adelaide Guineas
Western Australian Races
Historically significant races
WS Cox Plate
,Blue Diamond Stakes
F Orr Stakes
,Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes
,VRC Classic,Myer Classic
New South Wales
,George Main Stakes
,Spring Champion Stakes
,Chipping Norton Stakes
,Queen of the Turf Stakes
,George Ryder Stakes
,TJ Smith Stakes
,Queen Elizabeth Stakes
The T J Smith
,Kingston Town Classic