Racing WA

Racing WA Thoroughbred History

Thoroughbred Racing In WA

A government notice in August 1829 referring to General Regulations and Instructions for Crown land stated:

“1st: The Territory is to be progressively divided into counties, townships and sections.

2nd: In each county the Crown will reserve 200 sections for the liquidation of expenses, and 200 sections for meeting the expenditure of the county and for sites of towns, race courses and other similar uses.”

Western Australia’s first recorded race meeting was held in Fremantle on 2 October 1833. The controlling body, the Western Australian Turf Club, was formed in 1852.


A meeting convened by Colonel Reeves on 22 October 1852 noted: “Twenty names were enrolled as forming The Club, with His Excellency the Governor (Captain Charles Fitzgerald RN) appointed patron. A committee was formed for the drawing up of racing rules of The Club and for making all further arrangements with reference to a racecourse.”

The first record of a race meeting held by the new WATC was a two-day fixture in April 1853. The big race was the Queen’s Plate, at 50 pounds over three miles. In 1879 it gave way to the Metropolitan Handicap and, in 1887, the Perth Cup took over.

Great progress was made between 1852 and 1903. The Perth Racecourse (Ascot) was created in 1903, bringing the number of metropolitan courses to five, including Belmont Park, Canning Park, Goodwood and Helena Vale.

In 1917, an Act of Parliament gave the Western Australian Turf Club the power to control racing, with all clubs racing under WATC Rules.

WATC took over the operations of Belmont Park (1944), Helena Vale and Goodwood (1945) and Canning Park (1946). The WA Government later acquired Canning Park and Goodwood, which are no longer racing venues. The last meeting at Helena Vale was held in 1969.

Membership of the WATC (now known as Perth Racing) has always been popular. Perth Racing’s head office Lee-Steere House in Ascot opened in 1986, named after long-serving Chairman Sir Ernest Lee-Steere KBE.

The book Siren Song: A History of Thoroughbred Racing in Western Australia, by Dr Glen McLaren, covers racing from the first meeting in 1833 to the early 21st century.

Copies are available at Racing WA, 14 Hasler Road, Osborne Park WA 6017, priced at $35. For more information email or call 08 9445 5333.