How racing first started in Gympie
PICTURE Gympie at the height of the Gold Rush era.
The time is December, 1868 and there are around 30,000 people in the rip-roaring gold mining town.
On Christmas Eve 1868, it was reported that there was no small amount of fighting in Mary St during the night, while the shooting of a Mr Dubee at the Union Reef also occurred. To add to the excitement several "stick-ups" had been staged in the area.
In this turbulent era what type of entertainment would appeal to the miners?
The newly-formed Gympie Turf Club supplied the answer.
A program was drawn up for Gympie's first race meeting to be held on December 29-30. Great enthusiasm greeted the posting of the following program of races.
Gympie's Christmas Race Meeting 1868
STEWARDS: Mr H. King J.P., Mr N. Brown J.P., Mr R. Lord, Mr A. Clerk, Mr F. Lord, Mr L. Bolton, Mr Elworthy, Mr Lawrence and Mr Carrol. Judge: Mr E. Gilbert, secretary Mr J. Henderson, treasurer Mr F Lord, Clerk of the Course: Mr J. Annand.
MAIDEN PLATE (1½ MILES): A sweepstakes of two sovereigns with 30 sovereigns added. Weight for age, open to all horses that have never won an advertised prize exceeding 20 pounds.
PUBLICANS PURSE (2 miles): A sweepstakes of two sovereigns with 25 sovereigns added.
DIGGERS PURSE ( 1 MILE HEATS): Sweepstakes two sovereigns with 25 sovereigns added - open to all horses the bona fide property of miners in the Gympie Creek district. Welter weights
HACK RACE: (1 mile heats): Ten shillings sweepstakes 10 sovereigns added.
SECOND DAY (Wednesday, Dec 30.)
HURDLE RACE (2 MILES): Sweepstakes 1 sovereign and 20 sovereigns added. Six flights of hurdles four feet high.
GYMPIE TOWN PLATE (2½ miles): Sweepstakes of five sovereigns with 50 sovereigns added for 3-year-olds and up.
LADIES PURSE (1 mile heats): Welter 20 sovereigns and amateur riders.
CONSOLATION HANDICAP: Five sovereigns, all beaten horses - once around and a distance.
From the program it is seen that the stamina of horses was fully tested in all events especially those run in heats. The prize money was very good for that era.
THE track for the races was hacked out of virgin scrub on the banks of the Mary River where Gympie Creek joined the river a few miles from Gympie.
A report stated that the track was not such a bad course though some would come to grief if mounts shy.
Excitement mounted as reports reached Gympie that horses were coming from Brisbane, Maryborough, Gayndah, Ipswich and Rockhampton for the races.
The chances of horses in the main race, The Gympie Town Plate (2½ miles), were greatly discussed in the newspapers.
Hermit, who had won Queensland's first Derby at Gayndah was highly fancied although only just out of the paddock.
He was to be ridden by Jack Dowling, a fine horseman. Samson, to carry 10 stone, was well favoured also.
It was thought that Lollipop would "melt before the 2½ miles was out". "Little was known about Nondescript" while "Weed might make the race end in smoke for the Keighan colours".