The Historic Toowoomba Clifford Park Racecourse. Its Weetwood Handicap and Toowoomba Cup.
Toowoomba's racecourse 'Clifford Park', has an amazing racing history steeped in real tradition. Some of Australia's greatest gallopers have run its surface, including Queensland's most famous racehorse Bernborough who won 11 of 19 starts on the track.
The racecourses land was first acquired back in 1861, with the first race meeting being held at the course on the 6th of March 1862. This first meeting was conducted by the Darling Downs Jockey Club, with the course itself being first known as the Drayton and Toowoomba Racecourse. The Toowoomba Turf Club, as we know it today, was formed later in 1882 and the racecourses name of Clifford Park later followed. The racecourses name stems from the Hon. James Taylor, as known as The King of Toowoomba, a very prominent figure in the early history of Toowoomba. He was a sitting representative for the Western Downs in Queensland's First Legislative Assembly and later also became a Mayor of Toowoomba. He was also deeply involved in the construction of Clifford House, for use as a gentleman's club, in Russell Street, in 1860. Which he named after his fathers hometown of Clifford, in Yorkshire, England. And the name of 'Clifford Park' the stems directly from this association.
Toowoomba's most famous and time honored race, the listed Weetwood Handicap, was first run in 1889. The race was named in honor of Richard William Scholefield, another very prominent figure in Toowoomba's early history, who was heavily involved in the early development and running of both the Darling Jockey Club and the later Toowoomba Turf Club. His house 'Weetwood', located next to the racecourse, finished construction earlier in 1889 and was named after his father's own home in Leeds, England and the time honored race was also given this name.
My own personal race memories of the Weetwood, are the outstanding wins of both Tiny's Finito in 1991 and Swiss Ace's win in this years 2008 race. Swiss Aces run was one of the best performances seen on the Toowoomba track and stamped him as one of the best 3yo's in the country.
The listed Toowoomba Cup, the cities most other famous race was first run in 1919. It made Australian racing history in 1992, being the first race to be run under electric lights in this country. It also made history again this year, with it being run on the same day as the Weetwood Handicap. This change has been seen as a brilliant move, because it has been a much overlooked race in recent years and this move will give it the greater coverage it deserves.
I myself only live about 40 meters from the racecourse itself and the area is a beautiful one to reside in. The presence of horses surrounding the racing complex, creates an air of ease, which covers the entire neighborhood. The sights, the smells, it is almost like being in the country, when in fact we are almost in the middle of a major inland city.
You can lie in bed early in the morning and hear the sounds of horses hoof's, clip clop across the bitumen, on there way to early work. The sounds of horses galloping down the courses main straight, echo across the 4.00am morning air. Toowoomba's racecourse has a breathing life and it always has, a life that started in 1862 and still continues to this day.
Below are a few photos, although not that sharp, will give you an idea of just how close I actually am to the racecourse. There is no better view, other than to be at the racetrack itself. Toowoomba has a lot to offer and Toowoomba's Clifford Park is a part of this. If you are ever planning a trip to the Darling Downs, than a certain stop should be a visit to this historic Australian racing landmark.
Article Copyright (2014) Mike Keenan - All Rights Reserved.
If anyone has any further information of the Toowoomba racetrack and its history, or early photographs they would like to share, I would love to hear from you so that the information could be put all together and added onto the website. I can be easily contacted here on the
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