Canterbury Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing facility in Sydney’s southwest region in Canterbury, a small suburb. The racecourse may not be a prominent venue globally, but its races are a vital feature of the Australian horse racing calendar.
The Australian Turf Club manages the racecourse’s affairs and other prominent facilities, including the Rosehill Gardens and the Royal Randwick Racecourse. Here is a brief insight into the history, physical attributes and facilities of Canterbury Racecourse.
Canterbury Racecourse History
The earliest records of horse racing in Canterbury can be traced back to 1852 when Cornelius Proud, a local landowner, cleared part of his land to use as a racecourse. Locals would use this land to have informal race meetings, but the community lost interest, and there was a long hiatus of horse racing in the region.
In 1871, two men, Thomas Austen Davis ad Frederick Clissold leased land from David Rose to hold a race meeting. This land was very near to the existing site of Canterbury Racecourse. Five years later, the land was leased as the head office of Canterbury Park Race Club.
The racecourse had humble beginnings with a grandstand of 700 people, a race track and a recreational park, all of which were constructed in January 1884. The first race was held at the same time. Two years later, David Rose acquired 53 acres of the land for the club’s use.
Following the land purchase, a network formed around the racecourse, comprising stables, harness makers and saddlers committed to developing the facility and the track. Until World War II, a zoo also existed on the site that housed animals like kookaburras, pheasants, kangaroos, emus, wallabies and brolgas.
1943 saw the formation of the Sydney Turf Club as a part of the act passed by the parliament of New South Wales. In 1945, Sydney Turf Club took over the racecourse, and the first race was held in the same year. Sydney Turf Club owned the racecourse until 2011, when it was merged with the Australian Jockey Club due to financial troubles and rising competition. It formed the Australian Turf Club, which then assumed charge of Canterbury Park Racecourse.
The racecourse underwent renovations in 2020, when the track was redeveloped to cater to drainage and surface issues. Work was completed within a year, and racing resumed.
Canterbury Racecourse Facilities
Canterbury Racecourse is located on King Street, only 11 km from the Sydney Central Business District and next to the Canterbury Railway Station. Compared to its regional counterparts like the Randwick and the Rosehill, the Canterbury Racecourse is quite smaller in size.
The track at the racecourse has a circumference of 1567 metres with a home straight of 308 metres. Its dimensions make it one of the smallest metropolitan racetracks in Australia. Hence the compactness of the racetrack gives front runners leverage who favours a quick pace. It usually features races between 1000 metres and 2800 metres.
Owing to its small size and the presence of bigger racecourses in the vicinity, Canterbury Park does not feature racing carnivals or any group races. Most of these races are held at the Rosehill Racecourse, and Canterbury is more known for mid-week and nighttime racing. However, an odd-listed race is also conducted here from time to time.
The racecourse has a total of four racetracks which are used for training besides racing. The facility also features stables to accommodate trainees from the metro areas of the city.
Canterbury Racecourse Fixtures
As mentioned earlier, Canterbury Park Racecourse does not feature major racing carnivals or group races. These races have long been moved to Rosehill Gardens.
Canterbury is more known for its mid-week and nighttime or evening races. For instance, the Kia Friday Night Racing Series is conducted under floodlights. The event is directed to host families and is considered the week’s highlight. The nighttime racing format at Canterbury is designed to replicate that of the Moonee Valley Racecourse, which also hosts races most Friday nights, which run every 15 minutes.
The midweek racing events at Canterbury do not offer as much excitement as the Friday events, as trainers use these events as an opportunity to gear up the runners and prepare them for bigger metropolitan races held on weekends.
Canterbury Racecourse does feature two listed races during the year, including the Canterbury Classic, which has a distance of 1100 metres and is held in January, and the 1200 metres PJ Bell Handicap, held in April annually.