GREYMOUTH JOCKEY CLUB HISTORY
Taken from the Grey River Argus January 12th 1867
A meeting specially called by F.D. Hamilton respecting the proposed Greymouth races was held
at Kilgours Union Hotel on Wednesday evening last. Following gentlemen were present;
Messrs Comiskey, Hughes, Kilgour, Boucher, Johnstone, Middleton, Somner, Keenen, Maxwell,
Slattery, Fisher, MacFarlane, Glen, Hamilton, McLean, Kennedy, Sheedy, Smyth, Fitzgerald,
Ashton, Crawford and others. Mr Comiskey was voted to the chair.
The chairman explained the object of the meeting and called on any propositions on the matter.
Mr Kilgour proposed there should be a race meeting the success of the late Hokitika meeting being
a good guarantee for similar success here, as Greymouth was known not to be inferior in spirit to any place on the West Coast.
Mr Middleton seconded the motion which was carried.
The Chairman suggested that there be a three day racing and the celebration of St Patricks be the first day of the meeting, being put to those assembled this was unanimously carried.
Mr Hamilton explained the way in which Hokitika races had been got up and the triumphant success that had attended them. Also mentioned that the ground he had selected would cost not much to get ready and Government land it would be advisable at once to appply for a grant and thus secure an annual income.
Mr Kilgour expressed his high approval of this idea and the meeting confirmed.
The following gentlemen were then nominated as Stewards with the power to add to their number;
Messrs Comiskey, Slattery, Johnston, Hughes, Kilgour, Sheedy, McLean, Fisher, Macfarlane, Keenen, Somner, Middleton, Ashton, Fitzgerald, Kennedy, Davies, Layman, Glen, Wallace, Hildebrand, O'donnell, and Morton. It was also decided to wait on Messrs. Revell, Elna, Kinsey, and Kisling and request their acceptance of the office.
Mr Hamilton was requested to act as Secretary and Clerk of the Course and consented so to do.
Subscription was at once started and nearly $100 was given on the spot.
Mr Hamilton mentioned that he was obliged to go to Christchurch for the Champion races coming off next week but he guaranteed to return to Greymouth in about a fortnight and remain to lay out the course, conduct all necessary arrangements.
The meeting then broke up in high spirits after a justly earned vote of thanks to the Chairman.
Greymouth races March 1867
The first annual Greymouth races to be run on Monday St Patricks day, Tuesday and Wednesday 18th, 19th, 20th March 1867 over a course specially cleared, within a mile and a half of the township.
Programme - First day Monday
of 50 sovereigns open only to horses the property of bona fide residents in Westland. Weight for age, one mile and a half, entrance 5 sovereigns.
of 25 sovereigns and a new pack saddle for the second horse. The horses that can be proved to have packed on any part of the West Coast for not less than one month during the last six months. Welter weight for age, heats one mile, entrance 2 sovereigns.
of 50 sovereigns open to all horses weight for age 2 miles, entrance 5 sovereigns
of 25 sovereigns, for horses the property of Westland Cattle dealers or butchers, weight for age, the winner or second in the trial stakes or town plate to carry respectively a penalty of 7lb and 3lb, one mile and a distance.
of 50 sovereigns open to all horses, weight for age, heats 1 mile and a half, entrance 5 sovereigns.
The Rules of the Canterbury Jockey Club will be enforced.
Greymouth first Annual Races March 18th 1867
Had the Clerk of the weather been specially desired to accommodate his meterological arrangements to the convenience and comfort of the public he could not possibly have provided more congenial condition of the elements. A bright sun in a cloudless sky, a gentle yet cooling breeze and a soft moonlight after Old Sole had disappeared, combines to make yesterday one of the finest of the many fine days which we have lattely had on the West Coast.
Ii is true there was not a first rate well accustomed course, there were no very crack horses, the races were not inurgurated by any special display; but never the less the day deserves to be marked in letters of red in the chronology of the Grey district.
The course is situated about 1/4 mile beyond the first bridge on the Arnold track. After crossing the bridge and trudging as well as one can through a couple of hundred yards of deep sand a lane runs from the right hand into the bush. This lane although only cut and hastily formed within a week or two of the present time reminds one of the village road. The short thick bush on either side not being very much unlike the high hedge rows in the old country. Five minutes walk along this road brings you to the race course a large area cut out of the dense forest which surrounds it on every hand. A glance is sufficient to show the carefullness and efficency of work clearing the ground. The course itself has been entirely cleared of every vestige of root stump, and the soil being naturally sandy and porous it has become soft and springy. The area is almost entirely level, there being a slight rise and fall at one portion of the ring, but too small to effect the running.
The situation is most picturesque behind a range of hills almost precipitous and clothed with forest where the base to summit forms a black background as perhaps not to be seen on any other racecourse in the world. The front and far distance a glimpse of the ranges above the Grey may be caught and the bold outline of the hills stretching from either side of the coal mine gorge help to form a 'tout ensemble' of picturesque effect not often excelled.
Yesterday the natural beauties of the situation were much heightened by the contrast afforded by the busy animated throng of human and equine life, the waving banners, and peeling music, to the stillness and sombre aspect of the forest around. The ground was well attended there being about 1200 persons present, the booths were fixed under and on each side of the grandstand, which last mentioned building is placed on the west side of the course under the high background of hills. The stand itself is a most substantial and convenient structure constructed and designed by Mr. Somner, and in every sense a credit to its architect and builder. It is most certainly, carefully braced and of such strong material as to be capable of safely bearing double the number of persons ever likely to be upon it at one time. The judges box is placed a little distance from the stand and the starting place is also within good view. Everything is well arranged and there is an uninterrupted view of the whole course.
Approach to the course is obtained by both land and water. Boats can go up the river as far as the bridge and thence up a small lagoon or overflow to the back of the course, whilst the track, as already mentioned passes within a few hundred yards of the entrance.
The road did not present any incidents of note, occasionally a few excited equestrians caused a spasmodic panic by galloping at a rapid pace along the narrow track which here and there approaches dangerously near the steep cliffs of the river bank. But no accident occurred so far as we are aware on the road or river.
The only incident out of the common being the much to be regretted unsuccessful attempt of the new stern wheel steamer "Golden Land" to surmount the rapids. This little vessel although admirably adapted for river work in less rapid waters is we fear not powerful enough to overcome the numerous falls of the Grey, although she made one trip up with cargo in the morning. She afterwards started with a full compliment of passengers and succeeded getting up beyond the second fall but owing to a disarrangement of her machinery she was compelled to land her freight and turn tail.
Of the races we can only speak in terms of the highest praise to say that they exceeded anticipation is not sufficient for very few could expect anything so creditable as they were, both as regards the horses and the running. There were numerous fields comprising many horses of local reputation and some which have earned laurels which are still green. It is indeed something for Greymouth to congratulate itself on the horses of the first day honours local owner, Mr. Paul carrying off the two crack prizes, two of minor note falling to Hokitika and one to an up country sportsman.
The Skelton name is synonymous with New Zealand thoroughbred racing.
Five brothers - Bill, Frank, Bob, Errol and Max were all born and raised in Cobden, near Greymouth and made their mark as jockeys.
Bay Horse (1948), Balloch (GB) - Broiveine (NZ)
Owned by Cyril Neville a larrikin merchant, illegal bookmaker and fearless punter from Greymouth.
A superb New Zealand stayer, Dalray excelled as a three-year-old over the longer distances. In the spring and summer of 1951-52 he proved himself the best of his age in the country by winning the New Zealand Derby, Great Northern Derby, Gloaming Stakes, Trentham Stakes, Autumn Stakes, and New Zealand St Leger.
Taken to Sydney for the 1952 autumn carnival, Dalray had an easy two length win in the Autumn Stakes. In September Dalray reappeared in Australia and enjoyed a triumphant season, winning the Colin Stephens Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap in Sydney, and the Mackinnon Stakes and Melbourne Cup in Melbourne.
In March 1953, three days after winning the Queen’s Plate at Flemington, Dalray broke down and was retired. At stud in Queensland he proved a successful sire, his best progeny being the dual Metropolitan winner, Tails.
THE SKELTON BOYS