The Home of Racing in Sydney



The History

On Monday 7th February 2011, the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and the Sydney Turf Club (STC) merged under the new name of the Australian Turf Club (ATC). This merger brought together two proud traditions of the turf, a tradition that stretched back to colonial times.

The first official race took place in Hyde Park in October 1810 under the patronage of Governor Macquarie. As the number of race meetings increased, the need for formal organisation became apparent. The AJC first met on 5th January 1842 and they began to formulate the rules of racing, the majority of which still exist today.

The AJC became the Principal Club, regulating all aspects of a race day and the racing industry. They encouraged registration of people and horses to ensure fair and true contests at the track. As a principal employer in the areas around their racecourses, the AJC was an active participant in improving thoroughbred racing. Originally racing at Homebush, the AJC moved their racing activities to Randwick in 1860. Warwick Farm was a later addition in 1923, though racing had begun at the course in 1889.

The STC was created following the passing of the Sydney Turf Club Act by the NSW Parliament on 10th August 1943. This Act marked a dividing line in Sydney’s racing history, transforming it to a structured organisation with two independently controlled non-proprietary clubs. The STC took control of Canterbury Park (first used in 1871) and Rosehill Gardens (first used in 1885), swiftly making its mark on the industry. The introduction of the photo finish camera to metropolitan courses came to Canterbury in 1948 with mobile starting barriers appearing around the same time. Other moments of note include Phar Lap’s first start at Rosehill, the creation of the Golden Slipper and setting up Canterbury as the home of night racing.

The AJC continued to monitor the integrity of racing while hosting Royal and Papal Visits, contributing substantially to the home front during WWI and providing venues for fantastic days of racing with famous horses, jockeys and trainers making names for themselves at the track.

With the formation of the ATC, racing enters a new era in its history. Continuing as a leader in the field, the ATC engages with the traditions of the earlier clubs while also forming new and innovative ones. Meanwhile the history of what has come before is maintained in the ATC Heritage Collection which has its home in the ATC Heritage Centre at Royal Randwick Racecourse.


The newly refurbished Heritage Centre located at Royal Randwick Racecourse is the home of Sydney racing history. With a wide variety of materials reflecting the history of the AJC, the STC and the ATC, the Heritage Centre provides a fantastic space for this history to come alive.

It is open by appointment, contact 02 9663 8539 or

We encourage researchers to come and use the extensive research library of racing books. Organised tours will be run throughout the year, providing an insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes.


The ATC Heritage Centre hosts monthly tours which will re-commence in February 2019. Come behind the scenes to see how we look after the history of ATC and racing in NSW. On Thursday, 6 December, there will be a special once off tour held in the Heritage Centre, where you may attend for the tour and stay to enjoy wine and a selection of gourmet cheeses.

Find out more



Subscribe to our bi-monthly newsletter where we examine in detail individual items from the collection and provide stories on a variety of aspects of racing history. For example, in a recent issue we looked at the development of the ‘Monkey Crouch’. Fill out your details below to learn more.

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ATC TV: Robertson & Marks Architects

ATC TV: AJC On The Home Front

ATC TV: History of T. S. Clibborn

ATC TV: History of City Tattersall’s Club

ATC TV: The First Sydney Cup

ATC TV: Randwick Becomes Royal

ATC TV: The Totalisator

ATC TV: The Golden Slipper

ATC TV: Keeping Time

ATC TV: The Beginnings of Royal Randwick


1866 Sydney Cup

Maker: Stephen Smith

Medium: 18ct gold

Size: 28cm tall

The inaugural running of the Sydney Cup in 1866 was a day of great excitement with the Governor and his entourage in attendance. It proved to be a close race with jockey Samuel Holmes only pulling Yattendon away to win at the last. The thrilling victory was awarded with this gold cup, the first to be presented as a racing prize in Sydney. Remarkably it has survived. It is made of 18 carat gold by the English silversmith, Stephen Smith. Yattendon was a highly distinguished colonial horse who won 11 out of his 17 starts. He went on to be a prodigious breeder. Yattendon was owned by three important colonial men. Thomas Rutledge, the family of whom donated the cup, was a pastoralist and generous benefactor. Walter McEvilly was a respected parliamentary librarian who also know his horses, and Samuel Jenner, the treasurer of Tattersall’s Club, was also an influential breeder who worked closely with owner/trainer John Tait. On the day the jockey Samuel Holmes wore McEvilly’s colours, green jacket, red sleeves and black cap. With such a distinguished ownership, racing and breeding history, Yattendon was a fitting winner of this prestigious and beautiful cup.

Doncaster Trophy (Frank Packer Trophy)

Maker: R. & S. Garrard & Co.

Medium: Silver

Date: made, 1847

Size: 84cm tall

This elaborately decorated cup was originally made in England by R. & S. Garrard & Co. in 1847. The company had been made crown jewellers in 1843 by Queen Victoria and they became well known for their production of silverware and jewellery. This cup was presented to the winner, Vedette, of the English Doncaster in 1858. In more recent times it was purchased by the Packer family at an auction in the 1970s. In memory of Sir Frank Packer (who served on the AJC Committee for 11 years until his death in 1974), the cup was donated to the AJC to be a perpetual trophy for the Frank Packer Plate. From 2009, it was presented to the winner of the AJC Doncaster Handicap, coming full circle to once again be part of Doncaster history.

1922 Spring Stakes

Artist: Martin Stainforth

Medium: Oil on canvas

Date: painted 1923

Size: 201cm x 89cm

The spring of 1922 was characterised by the clashes between Beauford and Gloaming. Beauford, a gelding from Newcastle, had wins in the Epsom Handicap (1921), the Rawson Stakes (1922) and the All Aged Stakes (1922). Over his racing career he had 17 wins for 37 starts. Gloaming was bred by Mr E. E. D. Clarke of Melton Stud, Victoria but owned by George Greenwood from New Zealand. He had his first starts in New Zealand. Gloaming raced until he was 9 years-old by which time he had 57 wins from 67 starts with 9 seconds and only one race where he did not place.

In 1922, a rivalry between the two horses built as they competed in a series of four weight-for-age races that captured the public imagination, at the end of which the honours were even – Chelmsford Stakes (Beauford), the Hill Stakes (Gloaming), the Spring Stakes (Beauford) and the Craven Plate (Gloaming). This Martin Stainforth painting was commissioned by Beauford’s owner (W. H. Mackay) and shows the two horses in their element, fighting it out for the Spring Stakes. The weights were level at 9.3 and both horses were at 10/9 on. The painting captures the moment at the line where Beauford got the upper hand, crossing by a neck in front of Gloaming.

The Barb

Artist: Thomas Hamilton Lyttleton

Medium: Oil on board

Date: 1867

Size: 74cm x 61cm

The Barb was a famous colonial racehorse owned and trained by racing personality John Tait, an inaugural member of the AJC. This painting of The Barb in full gallop with jockey William Davis is by the amateur artist Thomas Hamilton Lyttleton. Lyttleton’s primary occupation was as a police officer in the Victorian Police Force, remaining as such until 1874.

The Barb was bred by George Lee. He was a black horse with a temper to match his colouring earning him the nickname “The Black Demon”. It was suggested that an early capture by bushrangers caused his skittish behaviour. Over his racing career, The Barb had 16 wins, amongst which were the AJC Derby (1866), Melbourne Cup (1866), Sydney Cup (1868 and 1869) and the Queen’s Plate (1868).

The direction of the galloping horse and the date, 1867, suggests that the painting was done to celebrate The Barb’s Melbourne Cup win in 1866. This painting has been in the collection since the 1930s and it is a fantastic example of equine art of the colonial period.

Randwick’s Foundation Document

Creator: George Rowley, AJC Secretary

Medium: Paper

Date: 1859

Size: 29.5cm x 34.5cm

In 1860, after 18 years at Homebush, the AJC transferred its racing to the newly re-laid course at Randwick. Randwick had originally been used between 1833 and 1838, prior to the advent of the AJC, but was abandoned in favour of Homebush. At that time the alternate course had easier access for patrons, using Parramatta Road and the river. With the creation of the AJC in 1842, they chose Homebush as their course. However by the end of the 1850s, the course had deteriorated and rent had increased. The Chairman E. Deas Thomson suggested Randwick as an alternative. Permission was granted for the AJC to use the land. However, the state of the course was pretty shocking, so in 1859 George Rowley, the secretary of the AJC, prevailed on the member’s for donations. The Foundation document called on members to “become liable to the extent of £50 for the purpose of paying the expense thereof” for the building of a modest grandstand and proper track at Randwick Racecourse. 15 answered the call and their names are recorded on this document. Without the pledge by the members, the course may not have taken off in the way it did.

First Golden Slipper

Creator: Winning Edge Presentations

Medium: metal and wood

Date: original horseshoe 1957; creation of object 2006

Size: 25.5cm x 30.5cm

The Golden Slipper was first run in 1957. By that time the STC was only a decade old and were keen to create a new and prestigious race to add to their autumn carnival. One of the foundation directors, George Ryder, identified a gap in the racing calendar. He proposed that the Club hold a race restricted to two-year-olds with set weights. The idea took root, and after many years of discussion the Golden Slipper Stakes was born. The name came when Ryder’s wife was asked what she thought the perfect present for a two-year-old was. The answer “A Golden Slipper” captured public imagination. With its first running, the Golden Slipper could not have had a better introduction than with Todman as its first winner. He lent the race credibility and his eight length win made the race front page news the next day. The trophy at that time was a small horseshoe. Now mounted with the details of the race, this first Golden Slipper marks a key moment in racing history.

Motor car Race Books

Creator: The Australian Automobile Racing Club

Medium: Paper

Dates: 1964 to 1971

Size: 14cm x 21.5cm

This selection of car racing programmes is from a period of time when Warwick Farm became home to motor racing from 1960 through to 1974. An agreement between the Australian Automobile Racing Company (AARC) and the AJC was reached so that a motor circuit could be put in at the Farm. Numerous race meetings were held at the course and famous racing personalities such as Jack Brabham made appearances. International and local championships took place over the years adding another dimension to the use of the course at Warwick Farm.

Kerry & Co. Photographs

Creator: Kerry & Co. (Kerry & Jones)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1891

Size: 20cm x 15cm

Kerry & Co. were a prolific photographic company in the late 1890s and early 1900s. A variety of their images of the racecourse are held in the collection but this particular image is one of a series of six prints showing Derby Day 1891 at Randwick Racecourse. The studio, begun as Kerry & Jones (Charles Kerry and D. C. Jones) but changed in 1892 when Charles Kerry became the sole owner, worked all over NSW and in Queensland. They took photographs of the Royal National Park NSW, Queensland artesian bores, country towns, Indigenous Australians, rural life and native flora and fauna. They were also present at a number of significant events such as the embarkation of the troops to the Boer War, the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1901, the arrival of the Great White Fleet and the Burns vs Johnson boxing match in 1908 at Rushcutters Bay. On this day in 1891 at Randwick, they captured the details of the weighing in, the horses going out and Stromboli returning triumphant.

Phar Lap’s First Cheque

Creator: Dow Corning

Medium: Paper

Date: Reproduced in 1987 from a 1929 original

Size: (including frame) 37cm x 28cm
Phar Lap won his first race at Rosehill in 1929. It was a two-year-old Maiden Handicap, and no one could have guessed the impact that this New Zealand horse would go on to make on Australian racing. The original cheque is decorated with the name of the Rosehill Racecourse Company Limited who at that time ran the course. Made out for £173.6, it would have delighted Phar Lap’s owners. In 1987 on Phar Lap Stakes Day, thousands of replicas of this cheque were made as part of a promotional activity. Dow Corning was sponsoring the race and they created these cheques to give out to racegoers. A number of them now reside in the collection as a reminder of the extraordinary skill of this horse.


Creator: architect Bates, Peebles and Smart; clockmaker Thomas Gaunt & Co.; timber merchant A. Kerr & Co

Medium: cedar wood and clockwork

Date: 1910
A chronograph is a timing device that uses the same mechanism as a pocket stop watch on a larger scale. Adapted for horse races during the 1800s, it mechanised the timing of races and at Randwick it was attached to the back of the judge’s box so that those sitting in the member’s stand could see the race results immediately. The AJC’s chronograph was made by three Melbourne companies – an architect Bates, Peebles and Smart, a clockmaker Thomas Gaunt and Co and timber merchant A. Kerr and Co. There was also a local connection with the electrical manufacturer E. H. Kirkby (based in Kensington) involved in constructing the mechanism that ran the chronograph.

The AJC was probably the 8th club in Australia to have an electric chronograph. It was installed at Randwick in 1910 and remained in use until the 1950s increasing the accuracy of race times. When it was no longer actively used, it was put into storage. Rediscovered in 2010 it was sent out to restorers. Many hours of work were needed to clean, consolidate and re-create aspects of the body and the face. It now stands at 10ft tall in the Heritage Gallery at Randwick, one of the largest chronographs still intact today.

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