Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Ex-CDA comments, suggestions, criticisms

Lost Racecourses of Melbourne

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There would be few people today, punters or not, that would remember Melbourne racecourses other than the Big Four - Flemington, Caulfield, Sandown Park (now retired) and Moonee Valley, but up until just after the Second World War, there were a number of other courses both close to Melbourne and in what we perhaps still regard as outer suburbs.

Some might be aware of the old Williamstown course which operated up until the Second World War when it ws used as a military camp, but which never re-opened after a fire destroyed the main grandstand while the track was being made ready to resume racing.

Aspendale, Epsom, Mentone and Williamstown and the original Sandown Park all hosted registered racing clubs - coincidentally two of them, Mentone and Williamstown fell into disuse for racing purposes after fire destroyed their grandstands. October, 2018 sees the addition of the Showgrounds, the home of standardbred (pacing and trotting) racing for several decades.

“Proprietary Courses”.  What will be also be surprising to many that several of these courses were privately owned and contributed significantly to Melbourne racegoers’s love of the sport by providing cheap and fast entertainment when compared to the “official” tracks.

Pony and galloway racing - a pony was a horse of either sex whose height was fourteen hands or less; alternatively, a galloway was an equine with the same characteristics with the maximum height extended to fifteen hands in England, but in Victoria to 14.2 hands.- were usually the "bread and butter" at these meetings which often offered up to 12 races per days at twenty-minute intervals, and usually with a mix of galloping and trotting events.

I’m pretty sure that it will a surprise to most of us that can just remember when the “new” Sandown opened in 1965 as joint venture between the Victorian Amateur Turf Club and the Light Car Club of Australia that in fact racing at the venue - then sometimes known as Oakleigh Park - commenced back in the late 1880’s, the course even having its own railway station of the Gippsland line, with two sidings each over 600 metres long on the eastern side of the tracks for the stabling of special race trains.  It was coincidentally also the site of Victoria’s first motor race meeting in March, 1904.

“Oldies, But Goodies” (added November, 2017) brings in a swarm of suburban courses, most of which were probably only used once of twice a year for annual meetings, more often than not on a public holiday : Brighton, Hurlingham Park (also Brighton), Dandenong, Eltham, Emerald Hill (South Melbourne), Essendon, Heidelberg, Ivanhoe, Kew, Prahran,  Richfield (Mordialloc), Sherwood Park (Burwood) Springvale, St  Kilda and Thomastown.

The stands on fire at Williamstown racecourse, 29 January, 1947  The damage saw the end of racing at the historic course


The grandstand at  Aspendale circa 1905  Aspendale was also the site of some of Melbourne's earliest car exhibitions


The Bridge Road entrance to Richmond Racecourse, circa 1929

Left : Finish of the Croxton Handicap at “Fitzroy” racecourse, 23 September, 1929

Although referred to as “Fitzroy” (because it was originally operated by the Fitzroy Pony and Galloway Club”, it was in Northcote and over a mile north of the border with Fitzroy!