Future champion Peter Cook at the 1971 Bananacoast Gold Cup meeting long before he won his two Melbourne Cups on Just A Dash and Black Knight.
Future champion Peter Cook at the 1971 Bananacoast Gold Cup meeting long before he won his two Melbourne Cups on Just A Dash and Black Knight. File

Coffs to mark 200 years of racing

NEW South Wales this month celebrates 200 years of horse racing with Coffs Harbour Racing Club an integral part of festivities.

The club will hold a celebratory TAB meeting next Friday to mark the milestone and CEO Russ Atkinson is extending a welcome to the entire community.

“Today, racing in New South Wales is as vibrant as ever and we urge everyone to come out to celebrate this historic landmark,” he said.

“Coffs Harbour itself has had a colourful history with horse racing since 1948 and we welcome the opportunity for locals and visitors alike to join with us to celebrate 200 years of racing.

“With our first race at 1.08pm patrons will be able to enjoy daylight saving with live local races until 5.30pm in the afternoon.”

The then-colony of New South Wales staged its inaugural race meeting in Sydney on a course in Hyde Park on October 15, 1810, where the busy city traffic now flows down Macquarie Street.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie had decided to organise a race meeting and the model he used was the Jockey Club of England, still an influence running through the story of Australian racing today.

Race meetings were held around Coffs Harbour with limited success from the early foundation days but really stepped up a gear in 1948.

Financial pressures caused enormous problems but the modern era is considered to have begun with the running of the Bananacoast Gold Cup in 1971, won by Regal Rhythm.

The horse was ridden by Des Lake, Sydney's premiership-winning jockey that season and trained by the immortal TJ Smith, father of Saturday's Caulfield Cup-winning trainer, Gai Waterhouse.

Six Group One winners or placegetters lined up in that first Cup field, considered the best ever assembled until the most recent staging last August.

Apart from the horses who ran that day, then boom apprentice Peter Cook also took rides, later going on to win Melbourne Cups on Just A Dash (1981) and Black Knight (1984).



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