Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey


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1931 : Construction Begins

The Totalizator Act passed through Parliament in August, 1930 by a majority of 27 to 18 and was later approved by the Legislative Council - "another place" in Hansard - with eight suggestions for amendments.

Reports in May of the following year when the rush was on to install totalizator equipment at the major city courses placed the total at £163,000 - substantially less than estimates made in 1928) – the Victoria Racing Club, £55,000, Victorian Amateur Turf Club (Caulfield), £32,000, Williamstown Racing Club, £23,000, Moonee Valley Racing Club, £23,000; Epsom Turf Club, £15,200; and the Mentone Turf Club also £15,200.

Several commentators suggested that  the proposed expenditure may embarrass some of the Melbourne clubs as they could not raise money on the open market in the stressed economic conditions of the day, and that the Victoria Racing Club had had to delve into trust funds (described as "a perfectly sound procedure") to finance their installation at Flemington.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all four major city clubs opted for A.T.L.'s "Premier", but the minor Epsom and Mentone clubs opted for identical (and smaller) installations from the New Lightning Totalizator Co.

The V.R.C.'s installation was carried out by Mr. E. Shillabeer (I remember the F. E. Shillabeer Steeple run in Flemington, I think early June and one of the key lead-up events to the Grand National Steeple) and was making progress with an anticipated opening at the club's August meeting. Two totalizator buildings were being erected in the Paddock, one each on the Flat and on the Hill behind the grandstand. The main tote was to have 25 selling and an equal number of payout windows using the Julius equipment similar to that at Randwick.

The contractor at Williamstown was Mr. W. Bolger, well-known as recently having completed the Emily McPherson School of Domestic Economics in Albert Park. Williamstown was noted (not for the last time) as having special requirements due to constant exposure to sea air and the main building had to be constructed from brick with a cement rendering. Again, operations were expected to commence in August.

The Government passed a Bill in September, 1930 to extend the borrowing power of the V.R.C. from £15,000 to £100,000, but it is not clear how the other clubs eventually raised the funds for new buildings.

The first tote operation was anticipated to be the Mentone club who were aiming to have their New Lightning Automatic Totalizator Company installation ready for a meeting on June 10, but after an inspection by a Government team led by Chief Secretary Tom Tunnecliffe, a number of faults were found, and although the club suggested they would take a fortnight to remedy, their tote was still not operational for their next meeting on June 30.

The Moonee Valley's Automatic Totalisator Company's machine passed its inspection on August 14 and a humble Yarra Glen and Lilydale Hunt Club programme at Moonee Valley on Wednesday, August 19 became the first metropolitan totalizator meeting to be held in Victoria.

5 per cent or the pool was to be distributed to Victorian charities; the State Government in turn matching this on a £1 for £1 basis, while another 5 per cent went to racing clubs - the 10 per cent comparing favourably with 12½ per cent being withdrawn in Sydney.

By October 3, the totalizator was operating on six of seven of Melbourne’s metropolitan courses - Moonee Valley, Caulfield, Williamstown, Epsom, Mentone, and of course, Flemington, the last track to introduce the tote (this was the result of race scheduling rather than any construction delay).

The Ascot installation was originally planned for the spring of 1931 but was held over when the course was remodelled to allow trotting races previously held at the proprietary Richmond and Aspendale tracks to be relocated there.

The first Ascot meeting saw a win dividend of £128/2/6 (533/1) declared in one race where there were just two winning tickets, one report suggesting the crowd rushed the pay-out window to see who the lucky punters were, only to be disappointed when one ticket holder declared he would collect his windfall at Automatic Totalizators Limited's offices, and the other, a woman, collected hers from the totalizator office on course.

One For Ripley!

So said the Sporting Globe's mid-week edition in 1961 and well they might!

The first race on which the tote operated at Moonee Valley in 1931 was a Trial Hurdle, primarily for horses proven very slow in flat races with a remote possibility that they may have some sort of future in jumping events instead of a one-wat trip to the glue factory - the winner was Royalson. Little can be traced of his form prior to his historic win – the Sporting Globe's limited form guide failed to list him amongst half-a-dozen possible chances and he must have at that stage been amongst the slowest of the slow, eventually starting at the rank outsider odds of 50/1 and returning the first ever local tote dividend of £13/14, odds of about 54/1.  He actually went on to win a second Trial Hurdle a fortnight later, undoubtedly putting a smile on the face of his battling young trainer, Vin Ryan.

With assistance of Doctor Who’s time capsule, we move forward to 10 February, 1961, after after an eight-year long battle, the Chairman of the Victoria Racing Club, Sir Chester Manifold can relax at Flemington and watch the first race on which Victorian TAB operates - the two-year-old down the straight is won by Meadow Mead, bred by Sir Chester and raced by Lady Manifold and their daughter, Sally.  Nice coincidence, one might say until we check the racebook.

Meadow Mead trained by the veteran mentor, Vin Ryan!