Where’s Werribee Racing Club?

April 25, 2020

Photo: Spendthrift Australia Park at Werribee.

Werribee Racing Club, known as Spendthrift Australia Park at Werribee, is in Victoria, Australia, located in the heartland of Victoria’s Thoroughbred Country a leisurely 40-minute drive from Melbourne. And it’s not a racecourse Americans are used to.

A wide and well-grassed track of an unusual design, Werribee has a triangular form and all turns are well-banked. The course is similar in shape to Royal Ascot without the chutes and the one tight turn.

Werribee’s latest facilities, including a synthetic track and state-of-the-art equine health facilities make it now comparable to Dubai and Hong Kong, allowing for both Australian and International horses, jockeys and trainers to enjoy an ideal facility ahead of major group races.

Aside from catering to group racing, the Werribee Racing Club is known for hosting leading home-grown and international trainers, horses and jockey’s during the Werribee Cup.

With its world class facilities and ideal proximity to Flemington, Moonee Valley and Caulfield racetracks, Werribee’s stables play home to international horses during their quarantine at the Werribee International Horse Center for the Spring Racing Carnival.

Werribee is part of what is called “country racing” along with 65 other racing clubs from Alexandra to Yea & St Pats Racing Clubs. One of Victoria’s oldest tracks, it is popular for its cosy atmosphere that brings race-goers close to the track and all the racing action.

The premier event at the racecourse is the Werribee Cup held the first Sunday in December. The 2019 Cup winner was Rupture, a 6-year-old gelding trained by P.A.Preusker.

Currently, Werribee is running without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is live racing, the next date being May 7 with Warrnambool Transfer Race Day. You can watch Werribee and live action at the current Warrnambool Spring Festival meeting on TVG.com.

TAB 2020 Warrnambool May Racing Carnival takes place Tuesday, May 5, Wednesday, May 6 and, Grand Annual Day, Thursday, May.

There is live racing from Victoria scheduled from Moe, bet365 Geelong, Swan Hill, Wodonga, Sale, Wangaratta and many more Country Racing Club courses. For the full calendar visit > https://country.racing.com/calendar#?month=4&year=2020

About Victoria Country Racing

Developed to promote and unify the many racing clubs in Victoria, Country Racing strives to be a leader in the entertainment industry by delivering the best racing product.

The delivery of a `Great Day Out’ to customers, and maximizing returns to participants will grow Victorian Country Racing by generating a profitable and sustainable business.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Series which is run exclusively for country trainers licensed in Victoria only and without a metropolitan training base nationwide.

A great new success stories from the Victoria Country Racing season was the inaugural running of The Jericho Cup at Warrnambool on December 2. For more on the Victoria Country Racing festival click here.

Werribee Racing Club History

On April 22, 1861, the same year that Wyndham township was proclaimed, a Wyndham Racecourse and Recreation Reserve (400-500 acres of Crown land) was gazetted. This early date suggests the importance of horse racing within the Werribee district.

Thomas Chirnside reputedly was instrumental in having the land reserved and declared. Thomas, with his brother Andrew, had an interest in horse racing which went back to their years in Geelong.  The Chirnsides trained many of the best horses in Victoria in the second half of the 1800s. At their property Werribee Park imported bloodstock were bred, while there was a training track at the stables at the Point Cook homestead. Andrew Chirnside’s Haricot won the 1874 Melbourne Cup.

However, at first, following the declaration of the racecourse, there seems to have been “nothing in the way of formal horse racing … in the 1860s and early 1870s.” Later, in March 1878, Michael Wall, publican, called a meeting at Armstrong’s Hotel, renamed the Racecourse Hotel by Wall. It was decided to hold races 4 May 4, 1878. A Wyndham Racing Club was formed with Wall as its secretary. The formation of this club, according to William Ison, a club member, was to avert the cutting up of the racecourse reserve into five-acre blocks for closer settlement.  Chirnside gave £300 to fence in the reserve. By January 1880 the course had been fenced and an entrance fee introduced. The club borrowed further money to finance improvements, including the installation of a grandstand.

During the 1890s depression years the racecourse became neglected and regarded as “the town common and swagman’s home.” It was claimed in April 1903 that although the racecourse “possesses one of the best racing tracks in the state” it was used only for a couple of mixed meetings with small prize money. The debts were so large by this time that the reserve was temporarily leased for cultivation and grazing purposes. An advertisement in the local press of February 19, 1904 called for tenders “to cultivate, graze or train horses on above reserve.” Cultivation leases of three years and grazing and training leases of seven years were offered. Wall signed the advertisement.

From 1907 the Agricultural Society sought to secure the course as a showground.  Later, in 1910 the Government declared that the reservation would be revoked unless racing commenced and a new Racing Club was formed. If these terms were not complied with, part of the land would become a showground and the rest opened for settlement.

Finally, in 1912, after the formation of a new Wyndham Racing Club, the Wyndham Racecourse Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament. This Bill, introduced by the local member, Robertson, licensed the racecourse for two meetings a year.  In his introduction to the Bill, Robertson described the Wyndham Racecourse as “one of the best and truest courses in Victoria.” A later 1932 Act provided for four meetings a year.

K. N. James claims in his book “Werribee: the first one hundred years,” Werribee 1985, that the totalizator was first used at Werribee at the winter meeting on July 10, 1935, “and after its [installation], no metropolitan course was without a tote.  The future of the Werribee Racecourse with the Victorian Racing Calendar was secure.”

Werribee Racecourse has been located on this site since 1861. Today the racecourse is a modern facility with large grandstand and other buildings probably dating from the 1950s onwards. Tents are added for the racing festivals.

Spendthrift Onboard

In October 2018, the Werribee Racing Club and Spendthrift Australia signed a deal regarding new naming rights for the Werribee Racecourse. The facility became known as Spendthrift Australia Park at Werribee, in a deal that Werribee Racing Club General Manager Ashley Baker said was the beginning of a new era for the Club.

“We are thrilled to announce this fantastic partnership with leading Victorian based breeding and racing farm Spendthrift Australia. The name remains respectful of the proud history of the Werribee Racing Club which dates back to 1861, with the partnership marking a new era for our Club as we look to reestablish ourselves a leader in the local community and the racing industry. Spendthrift Australia are significant contributors to the industry, particularly here in Victoria, and this is a great opportunity to come together and work in partnership to grow our brands both on and off the track”.

Spendthrift Australia General Manager Garry Cuddy was equally enthusiastic about the announcement. “We are very excited to take over the naming rights to the Werribee Race Club. A club with a wonderful history and a great vision towards the future. A partnership like this signifies the intention of Spendthrift to establish ourselves as a leading farm in Victoria and Australia.”

Spendthrift Australia Park is also the home of the Racing Victoria International Quarantine Center, which for the first time was at capacity in 2018 with 32 international raiders being housed in the three compounds.

Past The Wire Staff 

@jonathanstettin Great article!

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