Kedron Park Racecourse
In 1881, Frederick Morris opened the Kedron Park Hotel and it is suggested that he was the driver of starting the picnic-type races on the opposite land. They were held from four to six times a year.
In late 1887, press reports mentioned that several race days were badly organised. In 1888, the lessee of the course W.J. Collier postponed the August meeting due to the change of ownership of the land. Collier is listed in some records as being in charge of the Kedron Park Hotel in 1888 and 1889.
In November, 1888, grandiose plans were announced for the formation of the Kedron Park Racecourse and Sports Ground Company Limited with a capital of $10,000. The purpose was to establish a suburban racecourse and sports ground. The company was to take over the property known as Kedron Park Estate including the hotel, sportsground and unsold allotments in the Estate. The cost was to be $10,000 cash, $5,000 worth of shares and a $40,000 mortgage.
The Park at the time had a racecourse, cricket, polo and football grounds which were partly fenced.
The Kedron Cup over 1.69km was held on February 9 1889 with a prize of $50 in gold. From March the meetings were held monthly. During the April meeting, Godalphin fell dislodging his jockey. On regaining his feet, the horse raced ahead crossing the line first, riderless, much to the disgust of the punters when they realised their bets wouldn't pay off.
Racing must have come to a rapid shut down as no mention of racing in the 1890s at Kedron Park can be found in newspaper files.
The second stage in the Kedron Park Racecourse story started with James Sharpe's purchase of the land on 3 May, 1911. Sharpe came to Queensland in 1902 and was instrumental in starting the Daily Standard newspaper.
Sharpe mortgaged the land for $6,800 and set about creating a race track. He consulted H. Raff, a surveyor, who made suggestions which did not meet with Sharpe's approval or give the track size he required. Raff is quoted as saying that Sharpe 'just adopted what he thought he could get a six furlong (1200m) course into'.
On 7 June, 1912, the course was bought by Benjamin Nathan and John Wren for $36,000 - $6,000 cash and $24,000 mortgage held by Sharpe. Frederick Thomas, a Melbourne merchant, held the land in trust for Nathan and Wren who were already heavily involved with racecourses in Brisbane. This course was unregistered.
At this stage it was a right-handed track, 1.2km in length, with a finishing straight of 260 metres. Within the racetrack, there was a trotting track about 800 metres in circumference. There were two public enclosures – paddock and leger. There was a small grandstand which seated 250 people in the paddock and a small shelter shed in the leger. An automatic Hodston Totalisator was in operation. In the paddock there were trees, lawns and flower beds. Over a hundred horse stalls were built to accommodate racers.
In 1921 there was a Royal Commission held into aspects of racecourse safety and it recommended that Kedron Park's main track curves be altered.
Kedron Amateur Racing Club
In 1923 the track was put up for sale but no bids were received. On 29 May that year J.E. Burke called a meeting to form the Kedron Amateur Racing Club. The club contracted to buy the course for $500,000. This was to be paid in the following manner - $2,000 cash, $20,000 in the first year and the balance at $40,000 per year. The value of the property was itemised as – land $40,000, fixtures $2,000 and – wait for it – goodwill $458,000. The profits for 1924 were $22,440 enabling the club to make its $22,000 payments. In 1925 the profits were $11,216 and up to 1929 only $73,666.67 was paid off.
At this time, admission charges were as follows – Paddock, Gentleman $1.00, Ladies 50c; Leger, Gentleman 27c, Ladies 27c – all inclusive of tax.
E.J. Lawrence of Melbourne was the course manager and he built up a good reputation. Occasionally prizes of $600 and $1,000 were given with a $2,000 trotting event – the largest of its kind in Queensland.
Unlimited Loo, owned and trained by Duncan Gaddes won the top stake of $1,000 while Kean of Zillmere's Irish Tom won the $2,000 trot. Other horses remembered by residents include Lumpy Bill, Chance, Coronation, Lady Crier and Portglass.
With over 3,000 starters a year there were many jockeys involved. Some were J. Wells, J. Patterson, W. Dowidge, P. Aitkenson, C. Sellwood, H. Kreutzer, C. Milford, G. Bergman, W. Dunn, S. Kearns, S. Perry, F. Robinson, J. Sinclair, J. Flynn and W. Cropp.
On the Glen Kedron side of Kedron Brook, known locally as the racecourse 'outer', interested spectators used to congregate to watch the races. Bookmakers soon appeared for these regular non-paying spectators.
Stories are told of some 'fly by night' bookies accepting bets and disappearing without paying out.
In 1931 there was another Royal Commission into all aspects of racing. As a result of the Racing Act passed that year, the course was forced to close. Trotting and dog racing continued for a number of years.
In 1955 the Brisbane City Council was negotiating with John Wren for the donation of the land for public sports oval to be named in his honour when the Queensland government resumed the land for a teachers' training college.
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