The Albury Cup Retains a Proud Racing History
The Australian city of Albury on the Murray River in New South Wales, on the border between NSW and Victoria, has long been a major transport link between the NSW state capital, Sydney, and the Victorian capital, Melbourne. It has a population of over 50,000 people and forms one half of a twin city with Wodonga, on the Victorian side of the river. Albury also has a long and eventful relationship with one of Australia’s most popular pastimes: horseracing.
The first race meeting in the town was recorded in 1840, and in 1845 a silver cup inscribed with the words “Albury Cup of 1845” was reported to be in the possession of Albury resident Miss Jean Spalding. This is believed to be the first occurrence of a trophy cup in Australian horseracing history, so the Albury Cup arguably has a claim to being the oldest race on the Australian circuit. It hasn’t been a completely untroubled history, however.
In 1885, the Albury Jockey Club began administering local racing, but it was disbanded 10 years later because of financial difficulties. Only in 1881 was an official racing body re-instituted, as the Albury Racing Club, although the club’s racecourse has been at its present location since 1865.
Cup Now 132 Years Old
Since 1883, the Albury Cup has been an annual event on the city’s racing calendar. That year the inaugural race was won by a horse called Coolabah, ridden by a jockey named Miller. Since then, the event has been hosted every year, seeing innovations like bookmakers being allowed at the track from 1886, the construction of the first grandstand in 1902, the introduction of the Totalisator in 1920, the advent of photo-finish cameras in 1946, a conversion to metric weights and distances in 1972, and the replacement of the original grandstand with the current one in 1974. In its current form, the Albury Gold Cup is a 2,000-metre listed quality handicap run annually in late March, with total prize money of AU$170,000, and a 1st prize of AU$102,000. The biggest crowd ever to attend the race stands at a record 20,117, in 2008.
A Premier Country Racing Carnival
The Albury Cup is now run as the culmination of a two-day autumn racing carnival that is one of the premier country race meetings in Australia. The closing day of the carnival is designated a half-holiday in Albury, allowing more locals to join in the fun. Hospitality marquees, with food and beverages included in the ticket prices, fashion shows and other entertainments enhance the carnival atmosphere, and the event has won the Most Popular Country Feature Race meeting Award, presented by Racing NSW, five times in the past 11 years. The most successful trainer in the Albury Cup’s history to date has been Richard Freyer, who recorded his eighth win in 2004 with Personal Image. The longest-priced horse ever to secure first place was Rough Bay in 1979, at 80:1. In 2015, the Albury Gold Cup was won by Kourkam, carrying a 54kg handicap trained by Tony McEvoy and ridden by his nephew, Kerrin McEvoy.