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With thanks to Woodend & District Heritage Society. The society meets on Wednesdays, 10am-4pm, at the old courthouse in Forest St, Woodend.
More than 1,000 people attended the first meeting at Woodend’s new racecourse in 1903.
But Gambill’s victory in the Woodend Cup wasn’t the most impressive feat they saw.
“During the Trial Stakes on the same day, a calf wandered on to the track and the leading horse cleared it in the style of a top-class jumper to go on to victory,” the Victorian Racing Calendar noted.
Since 1860, horse races had been held on the hill now occupied by the golf course. The opening of the longer track in Forest St reflected the sport’s popularity.
Woodend became one of the first country racing clubs to install photo-finish equipment and to have its own mobile starting stalls.
But despite having the highest attendances for Saturday meetings of any country course in the state, the club found its future under threat in the mid-1960s. The government wanted to have only one racecourse in the area – and chose Kyneton.
After a long, drawn-out battle, the government got its wish in 1982.
Newry Boy, ridden by Ron Trevor, had the distinction of winning the last race at the final meeting before the two clubs merged.
📘 Beyond the Black Forest, by Sylvia Boxshall (2017), describes the early settlement of Woodend and the surrounding district. Available from Woodend & District Heritage Society, $27.50.
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