Saturday, July 3, 2010

Historical footnote: prior to WWII pony racing was a big entertainment option in Sydney

Like the lost velodromes of Sydney, there are also the lost pony racecourses such as Ascot, Rosebery, Victoria Park and Kensington. Ascot's track and surrounds were overtaken by Sydney's growing airport at Mascot, Rosebery by housing flats and Kensington by the University of NSW. Victoria Park had several later uses, including the Leyland car factory, Naval Stores and more recently housing.

Pony racing was defined as..."any meeting at which the conditions of any race included any condition relating to the height of any horse, mare or gelding eligible to compete". By 1930 restricted height races were generally programmed for 14.1- or 14.2-hand ponies.

South Sydney's major venues for them in the 20th century were Ascot (now a Sydney airport runway), Victoria Park (a housing development), Rosebery Park (part of Mascot) and Kensington racecourses. Other Sydney circuits for them included Liverpool, Lillie Bridge, Brighton, Belmore and Epping.

In 1907, in opposition to the registered clubs, headed by the Australian Jockey Club, they formed the powerful Associated Racing Clubs (ARC). But it has long gone. Rosebery went in 1962 but the final meeting there took place almost 23 years earlier. Sydney's last pony meeting was at Ascot on August 22, 1942. Rosebery was still operating as a training track in my time and the betting action on official two-year-olds' barrier trials, with the likes of Hollywood George Edser betting (illegally), was greater than at your average Randwick Saturday these days.

By: Wayne Peake Publisher: Walla Walla Press, Newsroom
Between 1888 and 1942, unregistered pony racing broke away from and challenged registered horseracing to become one of Sydney’s most popular sporting industries. It was also big business elsewhere in Australia, and in England, South Africa and India. Peake’s important contribution to Australian sporting and public history focuses on this little known phenomenon. Sydney’s pony racing epicentre stretched from the city to Botany Bay, with the main courses located in Rosebery, Kensington, Ascot and Victoria Park.A fascinating picture of the sport’s prominence in Sydney life over half a century emerges in these pages.

or checkout my list of Sydney and surrounding airstrips and airports

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