Harold Park Paceway
Harold Park Paceway is a harness racing track in Glebe, New South Wales. It is a half-mile track (804.5m) but was just 739m in circumference until some changes in recent years. Races are now run over distances of 1760m, 2160m, 2565m and the occasional 2965m event.
Founded in 1902, the course was first known as Forest Lodge, and for the first meeting there were five events with total prize money of ninety-nine sovereigns.
Just prior to the turn of the 20th century, and before meetings commenced at Forest Lodge, the present Harold Park course, trotting and pacing was confirmed primarily to match races between enthusiasts without and serious attempt at organisation. Following some preliminary discussions, thirty-three of the sport's keenest supporters met on 4 June 1902 at the saddlery shop of J.McGrath, a well-known harness maker of the day. Those present at the meeting raised the sum of 19 pounds 17 shillings and 6 pence to launch the proposed Club. The general contribution was 2/6 per person, while the maximum donation was 10 pounds 10 shillings by Mr. J.A. Buckland, owner of the famous horse "Fritz."
The Club was incorporated on 10 October 1902, with twenty-two members paying a subscription of 2 pounds 2 shillings, and the inaugural meeting was held on 19 November 1902, the Forest Lodge course it was then known, being leased from the Metropolitan Rugby Union. Following two meetings at Forest Lodge, racing was continued at the old Kensington Pony course where it was conducted until June 1904. Racing was then resumed at Forest Lodge, which had in the interim period became Epping.
1911 was an eventful year in the history of harness racing in New South Wales. It marked the recognition by the Colonial Secretary of the Day, of the New South Wales Trotting Club as the Controlling authority of the sport in the state. From that year onwards, successive Governments have continued to give that recognition, until 1976 the control was transferred to the Trotting Authority of NSW. 1911 also included the Club purchasing the course from the Metropolitan Rugby Union for 10,400 pounds.
The track was known as Epping until 21 March 1929, when, due to the confusion of the name with the Sydney suburb, it was renamed Harold Park, after the imported trotter Childe Harold – one of the great progenitors of the stock of the early night trotting days.
The Kentucky-bred Childe Harold was imported from Glasgow, Scotland by Mr. Andrew Town of Richmond, New South Wales.
1 October 1949, marked the advent of night racing, as the result of legislation enacted with the support of all parties in the State Parliament.
The progress since then has reached heights undreamt of by those who attended Harold Park's inaugural meeting in 1902, and from its early obscurity, Harold Park has become known worldwide as the venue of one of Australia's most spectacular night entertainments.
Since night trotting commenced, harness horses at Harold Park have achieved worldwide recognition, and there have been some thrilling and exciting races conducted at the track. Without doubt the most memorable is that which took place on 13 February 1960, when the "mighty atom" Caduceus from New Zealand defeated Australia's Apmat in the final of the Inter Dominion before a world record crowd of 50,346.
The scene was set that night for the very best in thrills, excitement, competition and drama. Over the previous 2 weeks, the best pacers in Australia and New Zealand had opposed each other in three series of grueling and testing heats.
Caduceus and Apmat had been singled out as the best two chances in a star-studded final field, and throughout the heat series, it could be seen that the rivalry which existed between these two great horses had been carried on to their drivers Jack Litten of New Zealand on Caduceus, and the local champion, Bert Alley on Apmat.
People crammed every vantage point to watch the race. They were jammed on every square inch of the inside greyhound circuit and packed into what is now the centre-course carpark. Those who were unable to see in the grandstand tore down timber and three ply partitions in the main grandstand. In a spectacular finish, Caduceus passed the post half a length clear of Apmat, with the Victorian Maestro's Melody a neck away third and Fettle a close fourth.
Caduceus received one of the most deafening ovations ever heard on a racetrack, but whilst the cheers were still sounding, the news was announced that a protest was lodged by Bert Alley against Caduceus being declared the winner.
This produced a most unfavourable reaction from the crowd, strange in the circumstances for they had turned against their own local horse. The Stewards, however, dismissed the protest and Caduceus was the winner of one of the most exciting sporting events ever held in Sydney.
The Miracle Mile has become the signature race at the Glebe circuit since its inception in 1967. It was the brainchild of former President Len Smith. Winners have included some of the greats of harness racing. Horses such as Caduceus, Young Quinn, Hondo Grattan, Mount Eden, Halwes, Paleface Adios, Chokin, Westburn Grant, Village Kid, Christian Cullen and Smooth Satin have saluted in this famous dash. Paleface Adios ran in the race an amazing 7 straight years from 1974 to 1980! The Harold Park race record is held by the New Zealand champion Iraklis. The last Miracle Mile run at Harold Park was won by Divisive on Friday, November 28, 2008. The Miracle Mile then moved to the new Menangle Park Paceway in 2009. The initial winner was the New Zealander Monkey King who added the Mile to his NZ Cup and NZ FFA wins in a track and race record time of 1.50.8.
The Inter-Dominion has been run on several occasions at Harold Park. Notable among the Inter-Dominion pacing winners was Hondo Grattan who won the first of his 2 Inters in 1973 for Tony Turnbull. In 1980 Koala King gave Brian Hancock his first Dominion win. 1988 saw Our Maestro give John Binskin his lone Inter-Dominion success for the Bob Knight stable. In 1966 the Tasmanian Chamfer's Star made a clean sweep of the series for driver Brian Forrester. 2002 saw Smooth Satin add the Inter to his Miracle Mile, Ben Hur and Chariots of Fire. In 1994 Weona Warrior gave Brian Hancock another Inter success. Some of the winners of the trotter's edition of the series at Harold Park have included Hano Direct, Yamamoto, Diamond Field and in 1973 the NZ'er Precocious was too good. Patrons who attended the 2002 Inter Dominion Grand Final didn't know at the time that they were witnessing one of the last Inter Dominion's to be run at Harold Park. The 2010 Inter-Dominion series will have rounds of heats at Harold Park and Newcastle with the final to be run at Menangle Park, known also as Tabcorp Park due to sponsorship.
The list of champions who have raced at the famous Glebe circuit reads like a "Who's Who" of harness racing. Champion standardbreds from all parts of Australia and New Zealand have achieved great feats in the track and re-written the record book before appreciative crowds.
Those few enthusiasts that attended the first meeting back in 1902 could have hardly visualised the changes, which would come to the historic Harold Park course.
A Members Vote on Sunday 26 October 2008 voted in favour of the sale of Harold Park but with the proviso that the land be sold for a minimum of $150 million. This could prove difficult given the global financial crisis that has also hit Australia in recent years. The latest news indicates that the NSW Harness Racing Club are looking at re-locating permanently to Menangle Park (near Campbelltown) as from January 2011, pending the sale of Harold Park. There is also a push for a move to Saturday night metropolitan racing with horse racing at Canterbury being touted for Friday nights in Sydney. However, other clubs such as Newcastle are opposed to this as Saturday night has been their night of racing for many decades now.
- Rozelle Tram Depot - Currently owned by the New South Wales Harness Racing Club and part of the Harold Park Paceway