Home to the Illawarra Turf Club, Kembla Grange Racecourse is a major racing venue located outside of Sydney.
The racecourse is the centre for horse racing in the city of Wollongong and one of the five provincial racecourses in New South Wales. Kembla Grange Racecourse has been a primary regional thoroughbred racing venue for over 150 years.
This article offers an insight into the history of the Kembla Grange Racecourse, its physical attributes and its facilities.
Kembla Grange Racecourse History
Historical findings reveal that the original Illawarra Turf Club organised horse racing early in the 19th century. The earliest records of formal racing can be traced back to 1834 when the original Illawarra Turf Club organised races at the site where the Wollongong Golf Course is located today. This was around 26 years before Royal Randwick began operating as a horse racing venue.
In the early 20th century, Hon. Joseph Carruthers designed a racecourse having a design similar to the size and shape of Royal Randwick and purchased the Kembla Grange estate, which is the present site of Kembla Grange Racecourse.
Construction work for the racecourse began in September 1911 and was officially opened on 22nd April 1912. The course was spread out on an area of 300 acres, whereby one and a half miles of Mullet Creek’s water frontage was converted into a racecourse. The cost of the construction was £17,000.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the Kembla Grange Station was opened to serve what would be the future site of Kembla Grange Racecourse. Currently, the station is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and race days. Between 1912 and 1942, a special loading and siding bank was operated at the station for horses.
Over the years, numerous associations have been in charge of Kembla Grange Racecourse. It continued until the current Illawarra Turf Club was formed. The club took over the operations of the Kembla Grange Racecourse and organised the first formal horse race on 18th December 1976.
In 1984, Illawarra Turf Club was provided with a complete TAB service in which it invested more than $10 million on racecourse development. This included the addition of new stables, a modern and larger grandstand, and the construction of associated reception and events facilities.
Kembla Grange Racecourse Facilities
Kembla Grange Racecourse is located almost 10 km from Wollongong and 80 km from Sydney. Located along the Princess Highway in Kembla Grange, it is on the foothills of the Illawarra Ridge.
The racecourse was built almost entirely identical to Randwick Racecourse in terms of its size and shape. The race track has a circumference of 2200 metres and a width of 25 metres, while the home straight has a length of 420 metres, which is suitable for strong runners. The starting chite of the track is 1400 metres. This track is one of the best-shaped tracks in the country, where every horse gets a chance due to the long straight of the course.
In 2019 major work was done to improve the race track at Kembla Grange. As part of the renovations, a Polytrack synthetic surface was added as a training facility, following which the grass training track was to be reconstructed.
Besides being a premier racecourse in NSW, Kembla Grange Racecourse is also a fully-licensed Function Centre which is used to cater to various kinds of events. The venue features five function rooms, manicured gardens, and outdoor lawn areas that can accommodate up to 350 individuals at a time.
The venues are suitable for various personal events, including weddings, lunches, parties and dinners and corporate events like trade shows, exhibitions, business presentations and conferences. There is also a large car park that can accommodate up to 400 vehicles at a time.
Kembla Grange Racecourse Fixtures & Calendar
Kembla Grange is dedicated to thoroughbred racing and conducts around 30 race meetings annually at the Kembla Grange racecourse. Around 26 race meetings are held on Saturdays, while the remaining four races are held on weekdays. These races attract more than 65,000 patrons per year.
The most significant race held at Kembla Grange Racecourse is the Kembla Grange Classic, listed as the Keith F. Nolan Classic. It is a Group 3 thoroughbred race that is held in late March. The race is named in honour of the founding chairman of the Illawarra Turf Club.
The race has a distance of 1600 metres and is reserved for three-year-old fillies with prize money of $200,000. The Keith F. Nolan Classic was first held in 2003 as a listed race, and since 2014 it has been held as a Group 3 race.