Cambridge Jockey Club History
The Cambridge Jockey Club has gone from a low key Picnic Racing Club in 1944 to the country’s leading training centre and racing centre, now hosting the country's first synthetic track, opened in 2021.
The Cambridge training centre all started with a group of enterprising local men who arranged a meeting in the old Parish Hall on Thursday, July 20, 1944. It was following World War II and horse sports and racing were very disorganised and casual happenings.
The object of the group was to form a club for the carrying on of horse racing and “other forms of horse events that may be decided by the members.” The motion was carried unanimously and the Cambridge Picnic Racing Club was established with Board members elected and the Club being registered with the NZ Racing Conference.
The Cambridge Jockey Club offered its grounds for the new club’s fixtures, but the date decided upon by the Cambridge Picnic Racing Club was too close to the previously arranged Hunt Club meeting with the latter being concerned the track surface would not have time to recover sufficiently for its meeting.
The CPRC postponed its meeting and instead decided to hold a Sports Meeting. One of the club’s members, Gordon Vosper, offered his property “Dingley Dell” at Pukekura and the first Sports Meeting was held on October 7, 1944. Buses were arranged to take patrons from Cambridge and the Karapiro Hydro to the raceday.
The sports meeting included ring events for ponies and horses, marching displays, athletic sports for children, two sprint races and a steeplechase. All prize winners received gift vouchers to be spent in local stores and the day’s entertainment ended with a community dance.
Though continuing to hold Sports Meetings for about six years, the CPRC also pressed on with its plans to hold its own race meetings and those plans reached fruition on October 27, 1945 when the club staged its first race meeting at the Cambridge Trotting Course. It was an equalisator tote meeting with six galloping races and two trotting events.
It was agreed the Trotting Club would fund the upkeep and improvement of the course, while the CPRC paid for improvements to the grounds, including building larger jockeys’ rooms, new totalisator buildings etc.
In 1950 the CPRC successfully applied for a totalisator licence. However, the NZ Racing Conference considered the word “Picnic” was considered unsuitable for a club operating such a licence so on February 15, 1951 the CPRC became the Cambridge Jockey Club.
At the club’s first totalisator meeting — and without any trotting races for the first time — the totalisator turnover was just over 70,422 pounds sterling.
As both the Trotting and Jockey Clubs’ meetings grew in popularity an increase in public facilities was needed. The Jockey Club found it was using much of its funds in rental and development of properties owned by the Trotting Club and the needs of both clubs often clashed. The result was to “temporarily” hold its race meetings at Te Rapa racecourse from November 12, 1960.
The increase in people with horses in work caused the trotting course to become overtaxed so on November 23, 1960 the Jockey Club purchased 50 acres to utilise as a training facility.
The popularity of the Cambridge Jockey Club’s training complex resulted in the club purchasing 100 acres adjacent to the original training track from the Beere Estate on July 27, 1976. And since then the club has continued to improve its facilities and has long been recognised as one of the busiest centres in the country.
Features of the club’s training complex now include a full synthetic training and racing surface, a fully irrigated course proper, grass galloping track, left and right-handed plough tracks, left and right-handed sand tracks, left-handed yearling sand and grass (for pacework), left-handed two-year-old grass for fast work, separate hurdle and steeplechase tracks (open March to November), trotting ring, sawdust and sand rolls, stalls for 300 horses and unlimited use of an equine swimming pool (installed by Ian Alton adjacent to the training track).
The CJC also hosts apprentice school meetings at the complex and holds regular trials meetings, including jumps trials during the winter months.
The Club’s racemeetings have previously been held at Te Rapa with the biggest day being in autumn with the staging of the Group II Travis Stakes and the Group III Cambridge Breeders’ Stakes. However racing will commence on the synthetic surface in May 2021.
Cambridge Jockey Club Notable Dates
20 July, 1944 Formation of the Cambridge Picnic Racing Club.
October 7, 1944 First race meeting held at Pukekura.
October 27, 1945 Second race meeting held on Cambridge Trotting Club course.
January 17, 1951 Granting of Totalisator Permit from NZRC.
January 31, 1951 Change of name to Cambridge Jockey Club.
May 5, 1951 First totalisator meeting.
November 12, 1960 Race meeting held at Te Rapa racecourse.
November 23,1960 Purchase of 50-acre property in Hannon Road for training purposes (cost 12,500 pound).
May 18, 1962 Official opening of training tracks.
April 2, 1968 Additional race date allocated (meeting held on July 17, 1968).
February 13, 1973 Additional race date allocated (meeting held on August 25, 1974).
April 14, 1976 Purchase of 100 acres off the Beere Estate adjacent to the existing training track for $225,000 was successfully negotiated.
July 27, 1976 Took possession of 100 acres. A loan of $165,000 for the development of the training complex was granted by the NZ Racing Authority.
November 11, 1976 Additional race date allocated (meeting held on November 25, 1977).
February 2, 1977 Buildings commenced.
May 8, 1977 Earthworks completed.
May 20, 1977 Horses commenced working on sand track.
May 16, 1978 Horses commenced working on grass track.
September 15, 1978 Official opening of the Cambridge Jockey Club Training Complex