In 1879, 700 people watched horses race at what was known as Daniel’s Paddock at Montefiores on the northern side of the Macquarie River. There followed a resolution to hold annual races on May 9 and 10, the purse some 300 pounds. By 1883, such was the interest in the event, that two omnibuses were railed to Wellington from Sydney to transport racegoers from town to the course.
A couple of relocations followed in subsequent years, with an old timer reflecting in the Wellington Times in 1908 that in 1845, highly credentialled Cooramin, Plover (alleged winner of 39 from 59 starts), and Lady Theresa competed. It was standard practice for horses to race more than once in a day, with multiple two-mile heats or three starts of one-and-a-half to two miles, the horses fed only on grass. Patrons relaxed in the evening with a Grand Ball and Supper.
Heavy rain postponed the meeting for a few days in 1874. The two-mile Gobolion Cup was run in very heavy conditions in 3.49 seconds. It is noted that at that time, the Sydney Cup’s two miles was run in 3.37, and a 3.43 time was not unknown, giving testimony to the quality of horse running locally.
In 1875, the committee upstaged the Dubbo Jockey Club when the latter refused to budge their meeting in May on days considered the preserve of Wellington. To attract horses to their principal event, Dubbo raised the stake to £300, only to be outdone by Wellington who upped their Handicap from £175 to £350.
The first race meeting staged at the current site on Showground Road was in 1932. Three of Australia’s foremost jockeys of the era—Maurice McCarten, Andy Knox, and Tommy O’Brien—rode on the first day of the meeting. Three years later, Wellington Racecourse’s imposing grandstand was built at a cost of £2000, its structural elements sourced locally or transported from Sydney.