Dalby Racecourse, also known as the Bunya Park Racecourse, is a thoroughbred horse racing facility in Dalby, Southern Queensland. Located over 200 km from Brisbane, this racecourse is home to the Dalby and Northern Downs Jockey Club.
This article offers a brief insight into the history, physical attributes and facilities of the Dalby Racecourse.
Dalby Racecourse History
Dalby Racecourse is one of the oldest horse racing facilities in Queensland. The Dalby and Northern Downs Jockey Club was formed in 1858 to organise formal horse racing in the region. The Dalby racecourse hosted its first race meeting in July 1859, which was a two-day event. The first record of a formal horse race in Dalby is listed in the Turf Register for March 1873. The race meeting comprised seven events and was held on St. Patrick’s Day.
The original course at Dalby had a black soil surface. In the early 1900s, its surface was renovated and converted into a turf surface, and it was renamed the Bunya Park Racecourse. Around the same time, renovations were done to the racing venue’s facilities; an administration block and a two-storey clubhouse were added. The purpose was to convert the racecourse into a prime venue and improve the quality of racing.
The Dalby Picnics, a prominent feature on the Dalby racing and social calendar, were introduced in the early 1900s and have been conducted since then, except for the years of World War II. These picnic race meetings are a pertinent part of the rural Australian tradition.
In the early days, races were conducted between grass-fed horses that had been brought to the local area three months before the race to help them become accustomed to the property. However, the practice was discontinued in the 1970s as the properties having facilities to accommodate and feed the horses decreased.
The races were a two-day event full of social events and races. Today, these races are a significant aspect of the Dalby racing calendar, and some of the current race committee members are the third generation to be involved with organising the Dalby Picnic Racing Weekend.
In 2017, a major fire erupted at Dalby burning down its historic 103-year-old grandstand and causing the racecourse to lose a crucial part of its history. The Dalby and Northern Downs Jockey Club was faced with a major financial crunch, but the club officials and volunteers rallied to restore the racecourse and resume racing on the venue.
Dalby Racecourse Facilities
Dalby Racecourse is located at the crossroads of Kingaroy, Roma Toowoomba, Goondiwindi, and Mundubbera and is only a few minutes from the City Business Centre. The facilities at the racecourse include public bars, an upstairs viewing saloon, catering facilities, stables which also cater to short-term accommodations on course for visitors and a venue for bookies.
The racetrack at Dalby is a turf track, and races are run in a counterclockwise direction. The racetrack has a circumference of 1600 metres, while the home straight is 300 metres long. Races at Dalby or Bunya Park are held from 800 metres to 2000 metres.
The unique features of the racecourse are its two lengthy starting chutes. The first chute is 800 metres and provides 500 metres straight run leading to the home turn, while the second long chute at the back joins the main course at 900 metres from the finishing point and caters for races with distances over 1000, 1200, and 1400 metres. The overall track is a fair course and provides runners with good runs to most of the track turns.
Dalby Racecourse Fixtures & Calendar
Dalby and Northern Downs Jockey Club organises regular racing events every month at Dalby Park Racecourse. The racecourse may not feature any group races but has a busy racing calendar.
The highlight of the Dalby Racecourse calendar in the present day is the Dalby Newmarket Handicap. The open handicap race is a part of a seven-race program held in March every year. The Dalby Newmarket Handicap has a distance of 1,000 metres and offers $25,000 in prize money.
Another renowned feature is the Dalby Picnic day Races, held in April every year. The 110-year-old event is the highlight of the year in terms of fashion and glamour and draws a huge crowd every year that comes not only to see the races but also the witness and be a part of the many fashion awards handed out every year.
Another event that the Dalby and Northern Downs Jockey Club has been conducting since 1862 is the Plough Inn Maiden Handicap. It is a 1400-metre race run under weight for age conditions.