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Gunbower Race Club Inc.

The first Gunbower race meeting was held on Saturday January 22nd 1881 as reported in detail below by the Echuca Riverine Herald. The racecourse was situated oposite the Gunbower Hotel on Gunbower Station. 

It  was a very successful meeting with ideal weather, a large attendance, good fields and five races closely contested.  Maoiri won the Maiden Plate rather easily, Skylark won the Gunbower Handicap by two lengths.  In the Handicap Trot, Touchstone came in first, with Blue Jacket second but a protest being entered they divided the prize.  The Farmer’s Race for six sovereigns was once around the course for all horses within a radius of twenty miles.  The winners to draw 30 cwt. loaded dray once around the course within half an hour after passing the post.  There were seven starters who made fast running for such heavy horses with the finish a very close one.  Nicholas, a substantial roadster, defeated Pollyby half -a-head  but he failed to pull the load of 30 cwt of fencing wire in a heavy dray around the mile course.  Polly was put in harness and she finished just inside the required time and was declared the winner.

Noted in these results was the performance of the horse Blue Jacket.  He raced a total of seven miles in three consecutive races to win a 1st in the Handicap Hurdle and 2nd in the Handicap Trot and a 3rd in the Gunbower Handicap.  The following year Polly won the Farmers Race and Touchstone won the Trot.  A horse called Kate won both the Maiden Plate and the Gunbower Handicap.

On the 30th January 1894 the Governor in council approved 127 acres, 1 rood, 15 perches of land on Fox Island to be permanently used for public recreational use.  At Tracey’s Gunbower Hotel in May of the same year a Committee of Management to act as trustees was elected.  The land was heavily timbered, and considerable works had to be undertaken before the land was ready for racing.  This Reserve became the home of the Gunbower Race Club and Gunbower Trotting Club until the Victorian Harness Racing  Board closed the Gunbower trotting track in 2005 and moved Gunbower harness racing to the Frank Ryan Raceway in Echuca.

The track soil type is clay loam, well grassed and completely smooth in order to allow flood irrigation to occur.

 

Fundraising and donations, in- kind work done by the committee and volunteers  turned this reserve into a great venue.  Much of the racetrack infrastructure has been obtained from other racetracks.  Second hand horse stalls came from Moama.  The Stewards towers came from Rochester and seats for the grandstand came from Flemington.  The administration block was funded by 60 locals donating $200 each, the balance funded by the Racecourse Licensing Board.  Profits built the food pavilion, covered horse stalls and new running rail.

Race meetings at Gunbower have now been reduced to one annual meet of the Gunbower Gold Cup.  Racegoers travel from far and wide to enjoy the picnic style atmosphere of country racing and horse drawn buggies and drays have given way to large tourist coaches.  Marques line the course perimeter and by noon the area is thronging with punters and locals jostling for a beer at the open air bar. Today large crowds of around 2,000 make the pilgrimage and an average of fifty horses get nominated to compete in a card of 7 races.  The traditional on-course bookmakers now have a shaded area to call the odds on the next race but these days technology allows punters to bet and view other races held throughout Australia on the same day. ‘Fashions on the Field’ is still popular with the Ladies and a variety of entertainment is available throughout the day.     

 

Information:    www.countryracing.com.au

Postal Address:

P.O. Box 93,

Echuca Vic. 3564