Day At The Track

Eighty years of racing for trots club

08:52 PM 11 Dec 2019 NZDT
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Warragul action, Harness racing
Warragul action
On Sunday, December 22 Warragul Harness Racing Club celebrates 80 years since the first race meeting staged by the club, then known as Warragul and District Trotting Club, which took place at the Warragul Showgrounds on Saturday, November 18, 1939.
 
A souvenir programme and an 80th Anniversary Cup race will be highlights of the upcoming race meeting.
 
Over 2000 people made their way to Warragul to witness the inaugural meeting, run in ideal weather conditions.
 
The meeting was conducted under the rules of the Victorian Trotting and Racing Association, the body established by John Wren of "Power Without Glory" fame, as the government controlled Trotting Control Board would not be established until after the War.
 
Many trotting enthusiasts made the journey from Melbourne by way of a special race train, which departed Warragul at 6.50 p.m. Those bringing horses by train could take advantage of a special carriage capable of carrying horses and sulkies.
 
The grandstand was a hive of activity, with the publicans booth and afternoon teas located underneath the building, along with the secretaries and telegraph and telephone offices.
 
Prizemoney was set at 17 pounds to the winner, two pounds to second and one pound to third, while the feature event carried 30 pounds prizemoney for first, seven for second and three for third.
 
Nineteen bookmakers fielded on local events and the Melbourne gallops meeting at Williamstown.
 
The day's racing commenced with the Hylsbroke Handicap, run over a distance of one mile and three furlongs. Fifteen acceptors faced the starter including the aged gelding Marvin Chief, a clear backmarker on 60 yards.
 
The afternoon's highlight was the 40 pounds Warragul and District Handicap for 2.20 and better pacers, over a distance of one and a half miles.
 
The result was what many expected, with a thrilling finish, in which Main Derby, from 72 yards behind, dead heated with Burly Vin, from 36 yards behind. The pair cleared away from the field approaching the home turn, and battled neck and neck for the length of the straight.
 
The owners tossed a coin for the trophy of a canteen of cutlery, with Hubert Shinn keeping the prize.
 
Most of the committee were newcomers to trotting, and their enthusiasm carried through. The grass track was closely mowed, and the large crowd attending the meeting were satisfied with the facilities. The track held up well after recent rain, with only one part of the course heavy. Fast times were the order of the day.
 
All who attended were very impressed with the way the meeting was conducted. They saw no reason why trotting could not be conducted successfully in Warragul for many years to come. As one patron put it "Warragul Trotting Club is here to stay".
 

The opening meeting was an outstanding success, and drew interest from right across the country. As Warragul was one of the few country trotting venues in Victoria, there was a great deal of interest in the club's activities. The success of the first meeting carried over to the two other meetings conducted in the remainder of the season.

 

Kyle Galley

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