F is for Forbury Park
It may not be the country’s most fashionable racetrack but Dunedin’s home of harness and greyhound racing Forbury Park has an interesting back story and can lay claim to its own slice of harness racing history.
The 12 hectare site on Victoria Road at St Kilda is reclaimed swamp and was bought for $12,500 in the early 1890s, after earlier being home to the Otago Jockey Club before it moved to Wingatui.
The first meeting was held in 1909 with its first night meeting in 1961, following the installation of an all-weather track. 12,000 race-goers crammed in, each paying the 5 cent admission fee.
Its crowning achievement though was hosting the 1965 Interdominions. Such was the excitement at the time that local newspaper reports billed it as “the biggest money-spinner for Dunedin since the Goldrush”.
It was the first time the Interdoms had been held under lights in New Zealand. It was also the first and only time the series would be held in this country outside of either Auckland or Christchurch.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Off the track 15,760 people attended the final night on Wednesday March 3. Over the four night series it’s estimated consumption included 45,000 cups of tea, 50,000 pies, many many litres of beer and hot chips by the sack load.
On the track there was some harness racing history – for the first time the Grand Final was a dead heat.
Robin Dundee driven by Doody Townley and Jay Ar (George Noble) on the rail went to war for trans-Tasman supremacy. Initially the call went Noble’s way and Jay Ar was duly decorated with the winner’s sash, only for the judge to conclude that they could not be separated.
In the 55 Interdom Grand Finals since that’s never happened again.
Tomorrow is “G” - and a New Zealand Cup trailblazer.