Day At The Track

50th Anniversary for Northam harness racing

03:37 AM 09 Sep 2010 NZST
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Next Tuesday's meeting at Northam will mark the 50th Anniversary of running of the first race meeting by the revamped Northam Harness Racing Club. Northam club manager Verna Freind has named next Tuesday's (september 14) races after the five Presidents of the Club and is planning celebrations on-course to mark the milestone for the Avon Valley club.

A trotting meeting was held in Northam on 28th September 1916 when the Northam Cup was won by Hectors Brother. Unfortunately the early enthusiasm for harness racing in the town couldn't be sustained and the club went into recess.

Early in 1960 a group of enthusiasts in Northam began to work to resurrect harness racing in the town after a break of more than 40 years.

Under President Percy Norrish the Northam Trotting Club approached the Northam Turf Club with a proposal to run a harness meeting at the Northam thoroughbred track utilising the sand training track. It wasn't all smooth sailing though.

The meeting was scheduled for the 21st September 1960 as part of the Northam Festival Week celebrations and on 8th August 1960 the Northam Turf Club agreed to the proposal and the meeting was ratified by the WA Trotting Association as the controlling body.

A week later on 15th August a spanner was thrown in the works by the WA Turf Club who rejected the concept of a harness meeting on a thoroughbred track and the club and WA Trotting Association made hasty arrangements to run the meeting at Cunderdin.

The Northam Trotting Club was planning on constructing a half-mile track at the Jubilee Sports Ground as a longer term venue.

In The West Australian on 27th August 1960 there was a report of a meeting between Northam Turf Club chairman Tom Murphy and WA Turf Club chairman Edgar Meares and at a subsequent meeting of the WA Turf Club Committee approval was granted for the harness meeting at the Northam Turf Club track on 21st September 1960.

The sand training track at the Northam Turf Club was nine furlongs in circumference and was easily the largest track used for harness racing in this State. It was wide enough for seven or eight horses.

Ten days prior to the scheduled meeting a three horse trial was held at the track with local horses Belical, Romas Pride and Lightfoot taking part with the interested spectators including leading Perth drivers Fred Kersley, Phil Coulson, Bernie Cushing, Bob Pollock and Jack Jones.

A photograph was taken at the Northam thoroughbred track on the afternoon of that trial and published in The West Australian the next day.

The first of the seven races on September 21st got under way at 1:30pm with the inside "running rail" being a wire fence which was intended to protect the crop which was flourishing in the infield. At least one driver at the meeting finished up through the fence.

After the running of the Northam Festival Cup (won by Cotton Tail) there was a special exhibition race from a move-up start over one mile featuring three of the better horses racing at that time in Perth.

Bobbie Oro (Fred Kersley) beat Barnsear (Bob Pollock) and Ora Banda (Bernie Cushing) covering the mile in 2:06.5.

The meeting ended in sadness however as 58yo trainer/driver Bill Barrass, who had driven the 7/4 favourite Osoroma into sixth place in the Cup, collapsed and died while watching the special exhibition mile.

Subsequently Mr Barrass's widow Gwen, gave her late husband's 13yo stallion Defiance to Bernie Cushing who paid Mrs Barrass 2/6d for the horse to avoid gift duty.

Three months later on 2nd January 1961 Defiance gave Bernie Cushing the second of his three WA Pacing Cup wins when he beat Peppercorn and Precipitation in the State's biggest race.

The Northam Trotting Club took out rain insurance against the track receiving more than 10 points of rain on the day of their meeting. The club was paid an amount of 400 pounds when 11 points of rain fell during the day.

For the record the winners at the historic meeting were:

Date                               Trainer                              Driver                                 Winner

21-September-1960   E () Quartermaine       B (Bernie) Cushing       TOP SPIN

21-September-1960   W (Bill) Whitfield         W (Bill) Whitfield          PHYLLIS AGAIN

21-September-1960   R A (Roy) Simmons     R A (Roy) Simmons      KITTY LYN

21-September-1960   C S (Clarrie) Taylor      C S (Clarrie) Taylor       COUNT CEDRIC

21-September-1960   P A () Testor               H E (Harry) Miller          COTTON TAIL

21-September-1960   C R (Charlie) Norman   C R (Charlie) Norman   CHASEDE

21-September-1960   V (Vince) Yendle           V (Vince) Yendle         ARDNAS


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