Cutting of the Slipper a key part of local pacing history

An early image from a day of Harness Racing held in Cowra. Photo supplied by the Cowra Harness Racing Club.
An early image from a day of Harness Racing held in Cowra. Photo supplied by the Cowra Harness Racing Club.

The Cowra Harness Racing Club will be celebrating 100 Years of Racing at the Cowra Showground, Racecourse and Paceway, with a race meeting on Sunday, September 8.

Over the next few weeks the Cowra Guardian will be running a series of articles that arranges archival newspaper clippings and the club's historical records into stories looking at the faces and sponsors behind the club, the big events and any other curious moments that have occurred during the club's centenary.

A Deep and Interconnected History 

The town of Cowra has obviously had a long and proud tradition of harness pacing, but it is also worth mentioning that way pacing in Cowra has involved not only local residents, but towns and villages in the surrounding area, like Canowindra and Woodstock.

There are other ways in the which the local pacing community has excelled, with an early iteration of the Golden Slipper taking place in 1960, a concept which has helped futurity based-events find popularity in the pacing industry at large.

A Long Term Plan 

The planning for the pacing iteration of the Golden Slipper started well in advance, as reported in the Tuesday, November 22, 1960 edition of the Cowra Guardian.

(NOTE: This isn't to be confused with the racing Golden Slipper, which was inaugurated in 1957 at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse)

Nominations for the race were to be made from the first reported date until the end of April, 1961, but the first race wouldn't be run until autumn, 1962, with prize money set at around 1500 pounds.

However, organisers were quick to forecast growth for the event, with the 1963 iteration to have 2000 pounds of prize money while the 1964 event would be increase the prize money even further, to 3000 pounds.

As the Cowra Guardian article of the day explains, the reasons for investing in this type of pacing was obvious:

"Spread over a period of four years, the amount of nomination and acceptance is very small in comparison to the amount of prize money offered and it provides the opportunity for every brood mare owner to participate in the slight gamble attached to nominating the dam of the intended runner.

"It automatically enhances the value of the mare and increases the worth of the foal when so staked."

This was part of the impetus for the local Breeders' Association to contribute part of their annual profits to get the event up and running, with the hope that it would increase the value of both local yearlings and those in neighboring areas by providing a lucrative opportunity for racing.

The Golden Slipper concept has grown in scope since then, and futurity racing remains a crucial part of the harness industry in Australia, with Cowra one of the forerunners in getting the concept up and running.

Part of a broader community

News in the Cowra Guardian from the 1950's remarked on the success of the trainers in the area's surrounds, making it clear how important Cowra was as a hub for other drivers, trainers and breeders.

The feats of Charlie Dickson were often reported upon in the paper, even when the Canowindra-based trainer purchased as horse all the way from Melbourne.

As the paper reports, on July 11, 1952: "[He] has added one of Australia's most promising young sires to his Red Shadow Stud. The sire is the seven-year-old Lawn Raider, by Raider from Roselawn, the dam of Lawn Derby and Van Derby.

"Charlie purchased Lawn Raider at an auction in Melbourne last week for 1575 guineas. This magnificent bay animal, who was renowned for his speed, will be floated to Red Shadow within the next two weeks."

The importance to the other towns to the vibrance of the local pacing community was also confirmed in the same issue of the newspaper when it was reported that Canowindra would play host to the first auction of trotting stock in west of NSW.

The auction took place on August 21 and was done at the behest of Dickson, who felt the costs associated with taking his yearlings to NSW were simply too prohibitive and subsequently unsustainable.

However, after deciding to avoid sending horses to Sydney, he decided instead to set up an auction of horses closer to the region, with Sydney's Tattersalls Bloodstock Sales jumping on board along with Canowindra's RA Brown and Co.

The auction would eventually take place at the Canowindra Showgrounds.

Success happening here there and everywhere

Meanwhile, as the Cowra Guardian's October 28 edition reported in 1952, there were also plenty of drivers achieving success across the Central Tablelands.

Woodstock owner-trainer-driver Clem Reid won the Improvers' Race from a competitive field, and in the newspaper's words, "quickly over took the leading bunch".

"He went on to win comfortably by four lengths from Brilliant Sandy and the well-backed Stylish Oro," the report added.

"Said Clem after the race: 'He was going so well, that once I hit the front I knew I had it won.'"

Meanwhile, Young's Manny Oxford had excellent results in the Encourage Handicap, driving Quixote.

His results were apparently never in doubt according to the newspaper, and the horse started the race as the even-priced favourite.

Quixote's timing was impeccable, as it followed Oxford to the front at the start of the final lap before pulling ahead from to finish three lengths ahead of its nearest opposition.

Making Waves across the Atlantic

Over in the United States, Cowra horses were developing a growing reputation for being world beaters, and that was reflected in the corridors of the New York's Trotting Hall of Fame.

As the Cowra Guardian reports in its July 11 issue from 1952, two horses - or at least their images - turned up in pacing's hallowed halls.

"Photographs of two Cowra champions are hanging side-by-side in the in New York's Trotting Hall of Fame," the report began.

"They are photographs of Inter Dominion Champion, Avian Derby, and his sire, Lawn Derby, who was also a champion race horse. The Trotting Hall of Fame asked for photographs of Avian Derby after he won this year's Inter Dominion championship in record time."

Linking eras

Ahead of Cowra Harness Racing Club's upcoming meet, the club is searching for any memorabilia - past or present - that could be part of a celebratory display on the day. Don't hesitate to email the club at cowraharnessracing@outlook.com if you have anything.

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