Horse Racing

Bellís Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer

9 February 1856

The Murray district is destined to become famous in the sporting world, and even at the present time this part of the country is remarkable for the number of its race meetings, and the character of its horses.

Within the last few weeks we have had the Mullengandra races, and the Beechworth races; the Woolshed races are fixed for the 29th, the Wangaratta races come off next month, and the Albury races take place in April.

Besides these, we have had several minor races during the Christmas holidays, and races have lately been held at Reid's Creek and elsewhere.

With reference to the qualify of our "bloods" we would observe that "Time tries all," and when we say that a two mile heat was ran in 3m 58s on the Beechworth Coure last Tuesday, we think we have said enough to establish tho reputation of the Murray racers.

The Beechworth Course being close to the township we commence our description of the sports by a sketch of the "fun of the road."

Four horse coaches and barouches are not plentiful in the interior of Australia, and at present we have nothing which can be made to correspond with Kennington Gate.

But horses are tolerably numerous at the Ovens, and the course was thronged with several hundred equestrians mounted on every variety of hack, draught horse, or other available quadruped.

All who could secure a horse did so on the present occasion, and we recognised many a steady going townsman, who had only to travel a few hundred yards from his domicile to the course, trying to look happy and composed on the back of some "buck jumper," or other.

The Course presented an animated appearance, and we only hope to see as good a muster of people at the ensuing local court election as we noticed at the races.

The grand stand was erected in a most convenient style, and had a very good effect at a distance; it was capable of accommodating a large number of persons, and was tolerably crowded throughout the meeting.

The platform was approached by two staircases, at the foot of which were the booths erected by Messrs. Fisher and Wyse, and Mr. Wallace, the lessees of the Grand Stand.

We call them booths, because this is the term generally applied to temporary structures on a race course, but the fact is many of these booths had a very substantial appearance, and the framework would have suited a more permanent class of building.

Nearly every hotel keeper in the district had a branch establishment on the race course, and a good sized township had sprung up, as if by magic, on the spot.

These, places were patronized very extensively by the public, and notwithstanding the heavy sum of £25 was paid by each proprietor, for the privilege of erecting a booth on the Course, we believe the Bonifaces of Beechworth found it a very good speculation.

Each of these establishments had a brass band or a barrel organ, peculiar to itself, and a perpetual hornpipe was kept up in most of them.

Our old acquaintance, the Panorama of Sebastopol, with its exterior cartoon, representing Napoleon, with Bashi Bazouks in the distance, was also present, and was visited by many.

A lady attired in black satin, and looking as charming as benignant smiles and massive earrings could make her, was sitting in state at a table at the entrance, and a gentleman from "fatherland," was explaining to the spectators that a view which was apparently a picture of Geelong harbor, with the rifle corps and a few forts painted in, was a faithful delineation of the beleaguered city in the Crimea.

Fruit stalls, "knock 'em "downs" skittles, and other time honored institutions, inseparable from racing, were to be seen in the vicinity of the course, but we looked in vain for the thimblerig; we suppose, because the people in this part are too wide awake to be cheated by such means.