WESTLAND RACING CLUB HISTORY
The first race meeting was held in Hokitika in 1865. The West Coast Times reported
on the 16th of September 1865 that the first Hokitika Races came off, with five races
resulted. The Maiden Plate was the first race, run over a mile for 25 sovereigns, and
won by Mr. Melodyís Maid of Erin. The second race was a mile and a half Hurdle for
30 sovereigns, which saw Mr. Bowdenís Shicer win easily. The last race was the two
mile Town Plate for 40 sovereigns, which was won by Highflyer. Sam McFarland won
the Packerís Purse, beating ten others, and Alice beat a good field in the Consolation
The Westland Racing Club was formed in 1866 and the first race meeting was
conducted on 30th and 31st December 1866 and the 1st January 1867, on
Clapcotts paddock on the south side of the Hokitika River with access by a small
boat ferry. 600 pounds was provided in stakes for the initial meeting, which
despite adverse weather proved so successful that it was extended to a fourth day.
A grandstand to seat 300 people was errected and no less than 10 publican booths
were provided. From the town to the ferry crossing, the Kaniere tram ran at 10
minute intervals. At the request of Police Inspector Broham, a small lock-up was
made under the grandstand. To secure those arrested for misdemeanours a large
log was sunk in the ground, and a staple driven in, to which was secured a bullock
chain. Prisoners were them handcuffed to the chain and so slung together.
Mr Clapcott said that between 3,000 and 4,000 people attended the races. The fields
were good and as many as nine started in the hurdle race. At least 6 Canterbury
horses attended. The course was half a mile round. Mr Hugh Cassidy's Archy won
the Packers Purse of 30 sovereigns. Ben Osborne's Don Pedro won the Hokitika
Plate of 50 sovereigns. Osborne also won the hurdle race with Blink Bonnie. On the
second day the Corinthian Cup, presented by Mr J J Bartlett of the Prince of Wales
Theatre was won by Mr Harrison's Types carrying 12st 4lbs. The chief event on the
third day, New Years Gift, 30 sovereigns, 1 mile was won by Mr Cassidy's High Flyer,
while Archy won the pack saddle scurry of 20 sovereigns, a mile ridden by packers
on pack saddles. Don Pedro won the principal event on the fourth day.
At easter time in 1867 another successful race meeting was held and so the two
seasonal meetings of the club were inaugurated.
The Hokitika River swept away the course and grandstand. The second site was
choosen close to Hokitika but it too was also taken by the Hokitika River. The
Club then moved to higher ground on its present site which was vested as a
racecourse in 1884. As funds permitted the ground was cleared and improved.
In its first years the course had a hill to negotiate in the back straight. The club
decided on extensive alterations and in 1897 inaugurated a general scheme
which remodelled the ground and track, and modernised it with good
appointments. Large inside and outside stands were provided, together with
a stewards stand and necessary officials quarters. In addition a totalisator
was installed and housed in an octagonal building. All these were in occupation
for the Club's 50 years Jubilee in 1917.
As time went on marked improvements were made in the grounds and course,
the hill disappeared and an inside training course was made, subsequently to
be widened and improved for trotting events.
Summer Meeting Hokitika 1920
In 1928 fire destroyed the main stand and the Stewards stand. The outside
stand was moved to a central position and enlarging the building provided
official quarters. But in 1931 on the eve of the easter meeting, the stand
and official quarters were again totally destroyed. The cause in both
instances were assigned to incendiarism.
The loss the Club experienced by these two untoward visitations was
crippling to the funds and for a time there was a difficulty in arranging
matters as the fire insurance cover was quite inadequate for the loss
sustained on either occasion. However the club courageously faced the
position and a partly concrete stand was erected in time for the Christmas
meeting. An administration block was later added. This stand is still in use today.
The totalisator was built in 1913 to capitalize on the banning of bookmakers three years before. On 30th April 2010 the Board of The New Zealand Historic Places Trust registered the Totalisator as a Category 1 historic place.
Octagonal Totalisator Building
Hokitika's Totalisator Building 2010