1860s – TJ Barker, writing as “Old Sport”, was one of the people interested in racing and one of his reminiscences of those early days included: “The first Parliament opened by Sir George Bowen in Brisbane on May 22, 1860, adjourned during the first week in June to enable the members to attend the three-day race meeting on the Ipswich racecourse with which Flemington and Randwick could then compare.”
Old Sport also recalled the greatness and the exciting scenes he witnessed on the racecourse during the holding of annual reunions of the old Australian Jockey Club.
1861 – The Ipswich Turf Club was regarded as the headquarter of horse racing in Queensland. Early Racing: Ipswich Importance – Breeding Introduced (By Persse) Queensland Times, Wednesday 4 July 1934.
A championship meeting held on May 29, 1861, was of three miles and the prize race was 1000 pounds.
A week later the annual June Races were run and prize money amounted to 2000 pounds, which included a Queens Plate of 100 guineas.
In 1864, the Brisbane Guardian wrote: “Regarding the horse racing, we have only to travel to the sister town of Ipswich in order to witness what a spirited club can do in the way of getting up the most successful meetings in Queensland.”
A write-up in The Queensland Times in June 1865 read: “On such a morning as this, when all the fashionable and sporting world of Queensland and probably 9/10th of our readers are preparing for the Ipswich racecourse, and experiencing the excitement with a week’s amusement, prospect is naturally calculated to awaken, we might now double submit an essay on political economy but we question whether we should meet with a score of readers.”
The old racecourse was a significant historical landmark not only to Ipswich but also the Queensland and when travelling, would always come across people who talked about the magnificent area of the grand old sporting days.
How a racing legend was born
The Queensland Times
In 1861 – the same year in which the first Melbourne Cup was run – Ipswich hosted the first Australian Champion Sweepstakes.
A 1000 pounds was offered for the winner of a 3 mile race with weight-for-age to be run on May 29, 1861. Interestingly, the Ipswich race offered 1000 pounds and the Melbourne Cup offered 100 pounds and a gold watch. Zoe travelled from Sydney to win the Ipswich race and Archer travelled from Nowra to win the Melbourne Cup the same year.
The occasion was a great social event which enticed people from Brisbane and all outlying districts, as well as southern visitors. There were only four horses in the race: Ben Bolt, Eclipse, Van Tromp and Zoe. It was the most important horse race that had ever taken place in the Australian colonies and was created by a few Ipswich sportsmen.
Patron was Governor Sir George Ferguson Bowen G.C.M.G and stewards were Thomas De Lacy Moffatt, John Panton, Arnold Wienholt J.P, Francis E Bigge and J Laidley. Judge was the Hon W. H. Waldwyn.
Two of the horses were brought up to Ipswich on steamboats a few days prior to the race as did most of the people from Brisbane. Governor Bowen came on the steamboat to Ipswich a day prior to the race and the journey took from 9am to 3pm.
From a description of two of the horses we learn that Zoe was a thorough racer and was thought to be the most beautiful animal to have been seen in the Australian colonies, Ben Bolt was a powerful looking hack which no man in his senses would take to be a racer but had an immense amount of propelling power with powerful loins, massive quarters and large gaskins and there lay the secret of his success. He was only a pony and stood about 14 hands 2 inches high, Van Tramp was a local horse and Eclipse came from the Darling downs.
The winner of the race was Zoe the time taken 5 minutes 55 seconds, 2nd “Ben Bolt” 3rd Van tromp” and 4th Eclipse. On the back of Zoe’s win, she was named the Australian Horse of the Year.
The Queensland Champion Sweepstakes was held on the racecourse situated on land bounded by Robertson Rd., Raceview, Cascade and Wildey Streets which contained 216 acres and had been named a racecourse reserve by the Government on December 21, 1861. It was known as The Grange.
1866 – ANNUAL RACE MEETING
The third annual race meeting of the Old Turf Club was held on May 30, 1866.
There were 1200 to 1500 people at the races and “as horse racing in Queensland is such a luxury, the bulk of the spectators did not trouble themselves much about the quality of the horses”.
Charges for admission to the course at the Ipswich races in 1866 were: person on foot sixpence, cabs and vehicles two shillings and sixpence, horse and driver two shillings.
Governor Bowen hosted a grand ball for the North Australia Jockey Club at the Ipswich School of Arts, now the Ipswich Art Gallery.
Jibboom was the winner of the first official Ipswich Cup. Jibboom was bred at Mount Brisbane Stud, claimed to be the oldest studs in Queensland commencing in 1843, and was by Sailor out of Ruby. He began racing in Ipswich and as a four-year-old he was purchased by Mr Kent of Jondaryn and travelled to Toowoomba and later Sydney. Not long after arriving in Sydney his stables caught fire. Although he was saved he was badly burned and died days later.
In 2005, the original Ipswich Cup was purchased for $10,000 by a group of local business people and is now held at the Ipswich Art Gallery. The currently value is unknown however the 1866 Melbourne and Doncaster Cups were valued at approximately $800,000 and $600,000 respectively. The three Cups are the oldest known racing silverware in Australia.
To honour the first official winner of the Ipswich Cup, in 2006 the Ipswich Turf Club named the newly constructed function room the Jibboom Lounge.