Extracts taken from Perry’s Past, A centenary History of Perry Shire – by Mervyn Royle
Though early times at Mount Perry may have been hard, life was not all work and one hundred and forty years ago they knew how to enjoy themselves. The first sign of levity in newspaper reports came at the start of 1872 when the citizens of Mount Perry held their first race meeting. For more than 140 years the sport of kings has been a favourite enjoyment for many of the townspeople.
The first race meeting on the 1st/2nd January, 1872 was a spectacular event held on the “plateau between Sandy Creek and the pine clad heights of Mount Perry”. The town’s publicans – Clark, Maher, Curry, O’Neill and Pattison – operated liquor booths, and a good time was apparently had by all. At the same time two racehorses, Quadrant and Royalty were auctioned.
Four years later there were complaints about the lack of support from publicans, but the race meeting on New Year’s day 1877 had a Maiden Plate of 20 sovereigns, Miners Purse of 10 sovereigns, Publicans Purse of 15 sovereigns, Hurdle Race of 10 sovereigns, Hack Race of 5 sovereigns, Wonbah Plate Handicap of 30 sovereigns and a Hurry Scurry of 3 sovereigns. Settling up was at the Royal Hotel, and a Race Ball was held at Duncan’s Victoria Hotel. The Miners Purse was an event for untrained horses that had never won a prize, the bona fide property of miners in Mulgrave District and ridden by working miners.
The grandstand at the present course was apparently built in 1904, but there are no records of racing activity from that time. In fact, records exist only from 1949.
The fifties were lean years for racing in Mount Perry. The nomination fee was 5 shillings for a prize of one guinea, so there were few starters. As a result the Race Club was dependent on the dance that followed each meeting for its principal source of income.
The distribution of TAB profits has been of immense help to country racing, and has enabled the Mount Perry Race Club to offer more realistic prize money. In 1978-9, the Club was able to conduct six meetings. Few other clubs have the 500 metre straight that is possible on the airfield strip, so that the Club can run a 400metre and 500 metre sprint race at each meeting. The use of mobile starting stalls in 1978 gave a great impetus. The October 1979 meeting had prize money of £2,660, more than the total for the 1977-8 season, while the Centenary weekend meeting aims to offer in excess of $3,000.