By Harley Walden
ALTHOUGH there have been many discrepancies’ regarding exactly how many racecourses there have been in the Murrurundi – Blandford area and where they were located, records dating back as far as the early 1840’s state there were as many as ten different racecourses operating between the years 1832 and1922.
The first race club in Murrurundi was formed in late 1841 by a number of men including Thomas Haydon of Bloomfield, Adam Stuart Wightman of Glengarry, Ian Ellis a publican, J.H.Atkinson licencee of the Marlow Inn, Dr J.H.Gail and the Singlet Brothers of Cresswell Park.
Starting and finishing near the Marlow Inn and running out towards St Joseph’s Chapel, the first racecourse in Murrurundi was on the property known as Maybyn Vale.
The exact date of the first race meeting is not recorded, however the Hunter River Gazette reported on January 8, 1842 from Scone that “the Chief Constable had gone to Murrurundi, where the races are being held,” which indicates that a meeting, possibly on January 1, was held in Murrurundi.
It is not known how long the first race club continued to operate, but regarding the economic depression which befell the colony in 1842, it is likely that the club came to an end no later than 1843.
The men who ran their horses at Mayben Vale were Thomas Haydon, Ian Ellis and “Big Bob the Blacksmith” from Murrurundi, Halstead of Singleton and Hardcastle if Scone and Charles Persons, who later trained for Andrew Lader of Cully’s Creek.
Two of the more prominent jockeys of the time were Joe Woods and “Yellow Dick” a half-caste who rode for Thomas Hayden.
“Dover”, an imported stallion owned by Thomas Haydon was the winner of many principal events.
It is recorded that at the first race meeting, George Ingle gave the blacks water laced with julep, a stimulant and they provided much amusement on the course.
In the evening as Thomas Haydon was riding Dover near the boundary post, Phillip Callaghan, later an influential squatter in the north-west, shouted ‘Oh’ and Dover covered the course before he could be stopped.
As prosperity returned to the district, the race club was reformed, although the year of the first meeting is unsure, it may well have been 1847.
Haydon records indicate that Thomas Haydon had considerable influence in the reformation of the club, although he did not race any leading horses.
Soon after the club was reformed a new course was used by local racing enthusiasts.
The course was located in Mayne Street where the Royal Hotel now stands.
The course extended northward to out beyond Little Street and eastward to Mount Street.
At the time races were usually conducted in heats and drew large crowds.
After a number of years the and was sold and a new course had to be found.
The leading sportsmen who raced this course were Andrew Lader of Cully’s Creek, George Sipple of Werris Creek, William Wightman, whose mother owned the White Hart Hotel, P.Ward, Jock Rose, a formed publican, Jim Newland who operated Mr Gill’s coaches at the time, W.Schofield, George and William, the latter erected the hotel at Murrurundi and Alec Johnston of Scone.
Horses which raced at that time included the Egg, Lord Raglan, Don O’Connell, Tarantula, St Helliers, Quondong, Discount and Logic.
Racing them were “Yellow Dick”, George Thompson, Teddy Baker, Ted Cummings, Sam Eldwell and Shore.
Two very young men who rode around that time were Peter Adam Haydon, who did not turn 20 until 1862 and his brother Stuart Alexander Haydon, four years younger, both sons of Thomas Haydon who died in 1855.
George Ingle’s Ben Bolt became famous at the time winning every race from Muswellbrook to Homebush and beating the noted race horse Lauriston.
Ben Bolt ran three miles in five minutes 51 seconds at Windsor.
Around 1863 the paddock in which the racecourse was located changed hands and the course was again relocated – thsi time to the site of the showground in the Police Paddock.
On this course W.Wightman’s Firestick; Dr Garden’s Grey Steel; Peter Adam Hayden’s Sardine; Bernard Brodie’s Baddy; Ed Stein – publican of the Golden Fleece Hotel in Scone – Bobby and Jack and Joe Sydney’s Little Mick were among the best performers.
Part of this course was acquired by the railway after 1868 and somewhere around 1870 racing ceased in Murrurundi until March 17, 1875 when a meeting was held on White’s Glenalvon property.