170-year race milestone to be celebrated

Former WHS student Kerry Ranginui is the celebrity judge for today's fashion stakes at the Wanganui Jockey Club Races.
Photo / File

There is old and there is historic, and then there is the Wanganui Jockey Club. In the annals of New Zealand history, the Wanganui Jockey Club is one of the earliest recordings and, in fact, can now boast it is both the oldest racing club and the oldest sporting club of any description still in existence.

The first race meeting was held in Whanganui over two days in 1848, December 21 and 22.

Today the club celebrates its 170th anniversary with the feature of the eight-race card, the Listed $50,000 Cambridge Thoroughbred Lodge Wanganui Cup.

The early history of racing in the Whanganui district was difficult to trace as no local paper was printed in those early days and the only mention of events was in

Wellington, Nelson or Auckland weekly papers. Unfortunately these reports were not always accurate. Even the Whanganui Chronicle — New Zealand’s oldest daily newspaper — was first published in September 1856, some eight years after the club’s debut race meeting.

The club had shared the distinction of holding the first race meeting in 1848 with Nelson, although with the Whanganui meeting being held late in the year, Nelson was given the nod as the eldest.

When the 150-year sesquicentennial book was written by author Laraine Sole and published in 1998, we were able to claim being the oldest club in the country still racing at the same venue.

In fact, the book gave substance to a claim we were also the first sporting club of any description in the colony still in existence.

With the demise of the Nelson, we are now able to comfortably lay claim to be both the oldest racing club and the oldest club of any description.

From the earliest years when the military, in conjunction with the early settlers, ran race meetings, a rich tapestry has been woven to capture one of New Zealand’s most fascinating historical snapshots.

Luckily for us the imagination of those early soldiers and settlers included the racing of horses and successive generations have kept the flame alive for us to enjoy.

Today the Christmas at the Races theme and the 170-year anniversary will ensure a capacity crowd on course to celebrate.

Aside from the eight-race card beginning at 12.25pm, the day will be full of celebration including a welcome and mihi in the birdcage at 11.15am, the Protege Hairdressing Fashion in the Field in the Eulogy Lounge at 1pm to be judged by Whanganui’s Project Runway designer Kerry Ranginui, the Wanganui Insurance Brokers Time Parade at 1.38pm, the Repco Mascot race at 2.15pm, the GG Glory race at 2.50pm and the Cup at 3.50pm.

By Iain Hyndman
Whanganui Chronicle 1/12/18

(*) Last Reviewed: December 1, 2018

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