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Advertisement in the Gosford Times 16 December 1898
Although horse racing in Wyong wasn’t new, with the Woodbury Inn or “Blue Gum Flat” racecourse in operation since 1875. This course was deemed unsafe and new courses where built on the Tuggerah flats near and around Lake Road and Tuggerah train station. These courses where referred to Tuggerah Lakes Racecourse(s) and meets held by Wyong Jockey Club and where described as beautiful with wonderful water views.
There where around 3 reported courses constructed around this area all of which where unpredictable due to their low lying geographical locations, they would often flood or be too soft to race on.
The first two day race ‘Carnival’ was held on the Tuggerah Lakes course on Monday 26th December (Boxing Day) and Tuesday 27th December 1898. This meet was described as the most successful racing meet ever held in the district with an attendance of 1500 patrons and large horse fields, assisted by the newly opened railway (1887) scheduling exclusive trains from Sydney and Newcastle for passengers and race horses alike.
The day’s proceedings was described as “a wonderful carnival of merrymaking, drinking, feasting and dancing”. The Maitland Weekly Mercury reported “Newcastle Brass Band discoursed music on the ground, which greatly enlivened proceedings. The races where well contested, and there were some close finishes… About 50 pounds was taken at the gate on Boxing Day. The Publican’s Booth was under the management of Mr John Gascoigne (Royal Hotel Wyong) who was well satisfied with his takings”.
Early tourism advertisement featuring Wyong 2 day race event in the The Daily Telegraph 22 December 1898
Wyong Park Race Club in the early 1900’s
The success of this first carnival meet wasn’t without discrepancy however. With 1500 patrons in attendance and a good majority of them travelling via horseback, sulky and horse drawn carriage, many where delayed well into the night on their return trip with only a three cart punt to traverse all to the northern bank.
This caused an uproar within the township of 200 and for the proceeding two years residents continued a solid campaign to Government for the construction of a new traffic bridge over the Wyong River. Evidently the bridge was approved in 1900 and stands on the site that the current (upgraded) bridge is today.
Wyong railway bridge prior to the construction of the traffic bridge. Early 1900s.
The annual Boxing Day ‘Carnival’ race meets continued through to December 1912 on the Tuggerah Lakes track(s) with great success until the first race at the Wyong Park Racecourse on 27 February 1913 on Capes Swamp (our current location today). Built by Mr. George Goldsmith who owned local timber yards and happened to become one of Wyong’s first Councillors.
A new syndicate was formed around the new course with Mr Goldsmith retaining a majority of the shares.
Interestingly Mr Goldsmith ended up bankrupt due to becoming too ‘financially involved’ in racing.
George Goldsmith died in 1917 and the racecourse came under the management of the Wyong Agricultural Association, a committee organisation who officially declared a registered annual two day ‘Cup Carnival’ meeting be held on Saturday 1st and Monday 3rd November 1924.
The committee allocated 25 pounds in prize money, in addition to the ‘Cup’ trophy to the feature race winner with an overall prize pool of 115 pounds for the day.
That year it was reported that several new horses had been brought into the district and more where likely to be acquired by local owners in preparation of this ‘Cup’ meet.
This sketch of George Goldsmith entitiled “The Squire of Wyong” was published in a Sydney newspaper at the time the new racecourse was opened.
The years following into the 1940’s where nothing short of tremulous for Wyong Park with course closures, poor attendances, abandoned meets and issues with new legislation and restrictions on the number of meetings.
Many efforts where made during this time to revive the racing culture at Wyong including the adoption of A.J.C rules and the introduction of an additional 3 pound bonus to each winning jockey at all meets on top of the A.J.C reward.
1936 ‘Cup’ feature race saw an increase in prize money to 75 pounds with a 20 pound trophy and gold mounted whip which created quite a stir in itself. The fact that there where 3 feature race winners was an extraordinary happening. Due to large entry fields the race was divided into two divisions. The second division that ran ended in a dead-heat requiring triple prize money, trophy and gold mounted whips.
Wyong Park racing returned to the fold after WW2 in September 1946. Crowds returned to the track and it was reported that over 150 book makers operated. In 1947 Wyong, Newcastle and Gosford clubs secured a combined office on Pitt Street Sydney to facilitate nominations, scratchings etc for Sydney owners and trainers.
Wyong Cup bounced it’s fixture dates in the 1950’s and 60’s. Reports of late February dates switching to November and December until around 1978 where it was reported the ‘Cup Carnival’ was held on the 30th August. Today the Wyong Gold Cup Carnival is held late August/early September (depending on Racing NSW scheduling) with Ladies Day on the Sunday prior to the Friday Wyong Gold Cup Day.