RACE DAY-FRIDAY 22nd. NOVEMBER 2019
The History of the Bong Bong Picnic Races
The history of the Bong Bong Picnic Races has been published in a new booklet titled "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" and is now available to members and the community. The booket was compiled by Club Life Member Alan Chittick and volunteers at the Club and charts the early days of Country Picnic Racing in 1886 through the War years, Leisurely Twenties, Revival in 1959 the years or Boom and Bust to recent years when James Cummings won back to back Bong Bong Cups. The stories include the heroic horses, trainers and riders who have made the headlines are all included in the booklet along with the recent awards won by the club and most importantly a final word on the future and how the club has conquered the hill! Get your copy at this years Bong Bong Picnic Races or a select locations across the highlands ( The Bookshop Bowral, Highlands Merchant Cafe, Moss Vale and the Tourism Information Centre Mittagong.)
The Bong Bong Picnic Race Club was formed in 1886. The first Bong Bong Cup was held in the grounds of Throsby Park and was won by Don Antonio.
For many years now the meeting has been conducted at “Wyeera”, an aboriginal word meaning “turning of the soil”.
In years past the meeting was held on Caulfield Cup Saturday and often attracted a greater attendance than the corresponding Sydney metropolitan meeting. It is interesting to note that the winner of the 1920 Bong Bong Cup, Purser, four years later went on to win the Caulfield Cup.
By the 1980s Bong Bong was the largest picnic race meeting in the world. At a time when race crowds were declining Bong Bong’s were increasing reaching almost 35,000 in 1985. However poor behaviour on the part of some of this huge crowd resulted in the meetings being closed. In 1992 the races were revived but under strict conditions imposed by the State and Local Government: crowd control limiting attendance to members and their guests only, week day meeting and strictly NO BYO alcohol.
Some firsts for the Club have been:
- first in Australia to be televised in both black and white and in colour,
- first in Australia to conduct races restricted to lady riders,
- first to have a female Secretary,
- first to offer stallion services as a prize, and...
- first Club in NSW to reintroduce hurdle and steeple races after WWII.
A proud possession of the Club is the actual 1898 Bong Bong Cup which was won by Mr Thomas Rutledge’s Record. The Cup is on display in the Club’s Wyeera office. Record also finished second in the 1899 Cup as well as winning the Tirranna Cup at the Tirranna Picnic Races (near Goulburn).
Wyeera has developed into a fine facility over the years. Long gone are the days of 2 x 2 posts in lieu of proper running rails, ashes from a local brick works to fill some of the swampy parts and strand starting barriers. Gone too is the notorious “drop” just past the winning post where unsuspecting jockeys sometimes became airborne. These days the course is a professional looking track but one which still holds its picnic race atmosphere and charm with the famous hill in the centre of the course the source of many tales about what can happen out of sight of the stewards.
First minutes of the 1886 meeting