The Horse’s Mouth


Oz Sports History



Courses For Horses - Maribyrnong
Some people collect stamps; some people collect football cards; others don't collect anything at all.
W. S. Cox collected racecourses!
After closing Kensington Park in favour of Moonee Valley, he bought 127 acres from a fellow racing enthusiast C. B. (Charles Brown) Fisher in 1890 for a sum stated in a later legal case as being £16,523. The area included Fisher's stables.
Just what prompted Cox to open a second course when his own Moonee Valley was fully established and Flemington long since extant remains a mystery, one possible explanation being that he intended to develop the property for breeding purposes.
(There was a famous Maribyrnong Park Stud on the southern side of what was then Maribyrnong Road - a prestigious race for two-year olds still carries the name on the opening day of the Spring Carnival).
By Christmas Eve of the same year, Cox in conjunction with his brother Archibald had established the Maribyrnong Race Club with the first meeting held at the course simply described as only as five-and-a-half miles from Melbourne.  
Later descriptions were a little more specific, suggesting the racecourse was in Maribyrnong Road and on the banks of the Saltwater (later Maribyrnong River).
Directories up until the time of William Cox's death show him as secretary of the Moonee Valley club, Archibald the same for Maribyrnong before he also took over the Moonee Valley role.
It was a brave, but probably unwise move.  Like Croxton Park, the site was some distance from Melbourne with no convenient transport and rarely attracted a large following.
Despite his apparent success with Kensington Park and then Moonee Valley, W. S. Cox apparently ran into financial difficulties, notes following his death early in October, 1895 suggesting he had lost a significant amount of capital investing in land in Gippsland, and in what was described as a "white elephant" racecourse at Maribyrnong  ... "his worries were of no insignificant kind, and doubtless tended to hasten his end".
The Cox brothers held more or less monthly meetings
The course attracted little out of the ordinary by way of publicity, but in 1894 A. H. Cox gained some kudos when he introduced a trial of an electrically operated strand starting barrier, replacing the somewhat chaotic flag starts.
The experiment proved such as a success that the Victorian Amateur Turf Club at Caulfield tested the device invented by a Melbourne electrician, Mr. L. J. Johnstone, on two races on Caulfield Cup Day
Last 29 July, 1905, although the racing club continue a little longer, Archibald Cox gaining permission for two meeting scheduled for the course later in 1905 to be transferred to Moonee Valley, the last on Wednesday, 4 October, 1905. There was no trace of the club operating from that point on.
The buildings on the course were demolished and the property use for agistment purposes until July, 1908 when the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquired it for the construction of a cordite factory later known as the Commonwealth Explosives Factory.
This actually helps us locate the probable site of the Maribyrnong course a little more closely as a map of the factory on the Department of Defence site shows the approximate site of Fisher's stables (although it not clear whether they were within the circumference of the track itself, also of a rifle range which was established after the Commonwealth took control.
The Department of Defence map on the Maribyrnong plant, formerly the Explosives Factory. Several landmarks are highlighted, the one of relevance is that circled, the site suggesting this was Fisher's stable.  A rifle range was later established at the point below right, this probably bordered on, or was perhaps even part of the race course.
Raleigh Road is highlighted in red and the Homemaker's Centre of Highpoint is visible.
Below : A Google maps Best guess as to the course's location with the approximate position of the stables and rifle range.  The Maribyrnong Park Stud would have extended from the bottom right of the map
Posted 13 July, 2013