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At the track

Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

At the track

Horseracing has been an important part of Australian sporting culture since the early days of European settlement. The first official races were held in 1810 at Hyde Park, Sydney.

'Derby Day at Flemington', after Carl Kahler, 1888–89.
'The Derby Day at Flemington', 1888–89, after Carl Kahler. National Museum of Australia.

By the 1860s racing clubs had been established in many cities and country towns. Race meets quickly became social, as well as competitive occasions, drawing together horse owners, trainers, grooms and jockeys, as well as spectators of all classes, bookmakers and punters.

Today, about 50,000 horses are involved in flat, jumps and harness racing, and more than five million people attend race meetings each year. Australians bet approximately $10 billion annually on horseracing.

Explore some of the stories and objects

 1866 Melbourne Cup
1866 Melbourne Cup

The earliest known Melbourne Cup in its original state.
‘Trotters at Randwick’
'Trotters at Randwick'

An 1887 ink and wash painting by architect turned artist Frank P Mahony.
 Portrait of Phar Lap
Portrait of Phar Lap

A portrait of the champion racehorse by Stuart Reid.