The Horse’s Mouth


Oz Sports History



Like Mentone and Epsom. Aspendale was popular for both racing and training because of its giving sand-belt surface underfoot.
It opened in April, 1891, the property of a well-known sportsman of the time, Mr. J. R. "Robert" Crooke who had developed the facility over a number of years as a private training track and named the course after Aspen, one of his best horses who won the Newmarket Handicap twice in 1880 and 1881.
Crooke followed a family tradition of racing, his father James E. Crooke on January 15, 1849, winning the Flemington Cup with Belzoni and collecting a silver cup which was presented by Mr. James Dunbar. This is believed to have been the first cup race run in Victoria and some historians believe that the name of the race was later changed to the "Melbourne Cup".
The trophy is known to have been lent to the Melbourne Museum in 1935 by Robert's son, Dr. Cyril Crooke, a Preston physician, its' fate thereafter unknown.
At the time plans were announced, it was noted that Aspendale Park was close to the beach and about a mile and a half from Mordialloc Station, but by the time the course opened, there was an Aspendale Park Racecourse platform, noted as about 16 miles from Melbourne and 30 minutes by special train.
The track was nine furlongs in circumference, one chain (66 feet) wide and with banked turns; course facilities included the usual grandstand, weigh-in rooms, jockey rooms, etc., but Crooke also catered for the public by providing two artificial hills in the enclosure to provide patrons on the otherwise dead flat course with an elevated view of the entire course.  The landscaping is attributed to William Guilfoyle, then the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens.  
Robert Crooke was also a motoring enthusiast. In 1904, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria held its first automobile demonstration at Aspendale Park.  
In 1906 a motor raceway was constructed, promoted as Australia’s "first commercial track", although only one meeting was ever held. A banked motor racing track was constructed in 1923, but by 1930 had again soon fell into disuse, despite one meeting early in 1929 when speedway racing was in its heyday attracting a crowd of 15,000 to watch a contest between a motor cycle rider and a low-flying aircraft. Robert Crooke was noted as having leased the course for the speedway events.
Horse racing ceased at Aspendale Park, the last meeting on 29 July, 1931 with the course continuing to be used for training purposes.
Motor racing resumed with the Light Car Club of Australia taking up a lease in December, 1937 after the local council banned events on Phillip Island.  Plans were for the track to re-open on 1 January, but negotiations were abandoned and events at the course did not resume until 1 October.  The Victorian Motor Cycle Association took over the track in 1939 and conducted events up until April, 1941 before petrol rationing saw Aspendale used for the last time.  
The course continued to be used as a private track by well-known trainer, Lou Robertson until February, 1951 when plans for its sale and sub-division were announced.   The property was then said to be 100 acres and owned by Mr. H. E. Griffiths; the area was developed as residential housing, an C.S.I.R.O. research station, shops and a child care centre.  
There is just a hint today of the area's original use with many of the streets bearing the names of horses or racing personalities of the time including Robertson Parade.
Courses For Horses - Fitzroy
A line-up of Oldsmobiles at a car rally at Aspendale in 1905, the grandstand pictured in the background
Harold Paynting Collection, State Library of Victoria
Updated 13 July, 2013