Auckland Thoroughbred Racing was officially created on 1 August 2021, marking an exciting new chapter for racing in Auckland. The amalgamation of Auckland Racing Club with Counties Racing Club to form the new entity Auckland Thoroughbred Racing Inc. created a historic new body with the goal of ensuring a more vibrant and sustainable future for thoroughbred racing across the entire Auckland region.
The Auckland Racing Club, as we knew it, came into existence on January 9, 1874, when members of two existing clubs – the Auckland Jockey Club and Auckland Turf Club, amalgamated.
Racing in Auckland had begun some 32 years beforehand on Epsom Racecourse, or “Epsom Downs” as it was known, which was on a site about three miles from the city.
The first meeting on this site took place on January 5, 1842, and the card consisted of two events – the Auckland Town Plate and Valparaiso Stakes Handicap.
After these modest beginnings, racing became an annual event and by 1849, racing was well established.
The Auckland Jockey Club was formed in 1853 and ten years later, the committee of the club adopted a comprehensive set of rules and regulations governing racing.
In 1873, the Auckland Turf Club was introduced as a rival to the Jockey Club. However, the Turf Club raced on just two occasions, December 26 and 27 of that year, before joining with the Jockey Club in 1874 to form the inaugural Auckland Racing Club (ARC).
The first two days, racing under the auspices of the ARC were held on May 25 and 26 1874 at Ellerslie where horses had raced since 1857. May 25 was observed as a public holiday to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.
To Ellerslie’s south, among several smaller clubs in the greater Auckland region, Franklin Racing Club was established in 1919 and held its inaugural meeting in November of that year. The club continued with this moniker for its first 60 years before a renaming in 1985 to Counties Racing Club. Franklin came from the name of the county but to most of NZ it meant little geographically. Counties however encompassed a greater area and was well known initially for its very competitive rugby team of the late 1970s and early 80’s, and later by other sporting bodies following suit.