Marrickville Heritage Society – Guest Talk – October 28 2017

Moorefield Racecourse, Kogarah

They’re off and racing !!

And so, on the afternoon of Winx’s third straight Cox Plate victory, Anne Field took us on an enchanting journey. Anne’s book: The History of Moorefield Racecourse, Kogarah (1888-1951) notes that the racecourse also had a 9 hole golf course (Kogarah Golf Club) in the middle.

In 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie granted 60 acres (about 24 ha) to Patrick Moore, who built a family home there. A descendant of Patrick Moore, Peter, developed the racecourse.

Moorefield held its first meeting on 13 October 1888. In the early years there were some 9-10 meetings a year, later dwindling to about 4-5 meetings a year.

There were no horse floats until the late 1930’s and 1940’s,so trainers walked their horses from such areas as Tempe, Banksia, or Sans Souci to the racecourse.  Kogarah Station was vital: horses were brought from the Mortuary Station at Central to the platform siding at Kogarah. They were then walked down Montgomery Street or Gladstone Street.  Patrons and jockeys also caught the train to Kogarah.

Moorefield won fame also because of its Melbourne Cup successes. Hiraji, trained by Moorefield’s Jim McCurley, won the Cup in 1947, ridden by Jack Purtell, (who also won the Cup in 1953 on Wodalla and in 1954 on Rising Fast). Anne located Jack in Queensland and was delighted that he was presented with a copy of her book. Jack featured on the front cover of  Anne’s book. Three horses which won at Moorefield also won Melbourne Cups: Westcourt in 1917; Windbag in 1925 and Foxzami in 1949.

Some horses ran at Moorefield without success but won Melbourne Cups – Nightmarch in 1929; Old Rowley in 1940 (ridden by Moorefield jockey Andy Knox, at 100/1); and  Russia in 1946, Hiraji in 1947 and Rimfire in 1948.

Famous jockeys, who rode at Moorefield included Edgar Britt (later to become King George V1’s jockey), who died this year aged 103, Ray Selkrig, Arthur Podmore, George Podmore, Arthur Ward and Billy Cook.

Trainers made up much of the Moorefield story. They included George Hanna, Jim McCurley, Bob Ryan, Mick Polson, Billy Childs, George Halpin, Neville Davis, Alf Widgery  and Bob Mead.

In the 1950s, a declining number of race meetings, plus the high costs of maintaining a racecourse, led to inevitable pressure to close the course. The Sydney Turf Club, which bought Moorefield in 1945, wanted to build up both its Canterbury and Rosehill Racecourses. The NSW Education Department later built James Cook Boys High School and Moorefield Girls High School on the site. The remaining land (53 acres) was sold on 9 August 1955 for £118 500 – for 270 home sites- the Moorefield Estate.

Moorefield’s last meeting was on 14 July 1951. The meeting attracted no media attention. It was used as a training ground until 1955.  And so Moorefield passed into history – but it’s a credit to Anne Field that such history has not been lost.

                                                                                                  Keith Sutton


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