The racing industry in Australia

The development of Thoroughbred racing in Australia

The history of horses in Australia began when the First Fleet landed at Sydney in 1788, arriving with a stallion, three mares and three yearlings that were obtained at the Cape of Good Hope en route from England. Seven years later a shipment of good quality breeding mares from the Cape was imported, forming the founding elements of the Australian bloodhorse. However, it was not until 1799 that the first notable step to improve the breed of horses in the colony was made with the arrival of the English-bred stallion, Rockingham, from South Africa. In 1802, Northumberland became the first stallion to be imported direct from England. The establishment of the Australian breed of racehorses was also influenced by the importation of a number of Arabian horses from Persia and India.

The first official race meeting was held in Hyde Park, Sydney, in October 1810. It was organised by officers of the 73rd Regiment, being conducted over three days and consisting of three heats of two miles each. Horse racing gradually became organised and fell under the control of formally established racing clubs, the first of which was the Sydney Turf Club (not the same as the current club of the same name), founded in 1825.

Captain Henry Rous, an influential figure of the British Turf, visited Australia in 1827 and provided an important stimulus to the establishment of Australian Turf institutions modelled on the English system. It was not until 1840 that the Australian Race Committee was formed, and by this time the Arabs had lost their dominance to the English bred horses. In 1842, the Australian Race Committee became the Australian Jockey Club. The sport spread rapidly throughout Australia to such an extent that the development of a racecourse was a feature of almost every new settlement. Major race clubs were established in every State by the 1860.

Current size of the Australian Thoroughbred racing industry

From humble beginnings, the racing industry in Australia has developed into a large and important component of the nation's economy. A comprehensive study on the Australian racing industry for State Racing Ministers in which the racing industry was divided into nine main activities: administration, breeding, owning, training, riding, veterinary, farriers, clubs and race gambling, estimated that racing contributed 0.5% to Australia's Gross Domestic Product ($2,400 million) and directly employed 132,000 people (in 1990/91). In terms of contribution to Gross Domestic Product, the report found that the racing industry was of similar size to the agricultural output of the high rainfall zone and the iron and steel smelting industry (in 1990/91). Many ancillary activities were not covered by the nine sectors investigated; the important association with racing of pharmaceutical companies, media coverage, transport services, accountants, tourism, catering, and feed companies illustrates the close relationship of racing with the rest of the Australian economy.

Name of Racing Authority: Racing Australia

Postal Address: Level 11, 51 Druitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, AUSTRALIA

Tel: (61) 2 8072 1900
Fax: (61) 2 8072 1999

Web Site:

Chief Executive: Mr Barry O'Farrell

Regional Racing Authorities:

Racing Victoria Ltd, Mr Giles Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, 400 Epsom Road, Flemington, VIC, 3031, Tel: (61) 3 9258 4248, Fax: (61) 3 9258 4743, E-mail:

Racing Queensland, Mr Eliot Forbes, Chief Executive Officer, PO Box 63, Sandgate QLD, 4017, Tel: (61) 7 3869 9777, Fax: (61) 7 3269 6715, E-mail:

Racing & Wagering Western Australia, Mr Richard Burt, Chief Executive Officer, 14 Hasler Rd, Osborne Park WA 6017, Tel: (61) 8 9445 5544, Fax: (61)8 9244 5914, E-mail:

Thoroughbred Racing SA Limited, Mr Jim Watters, Chief Executive, GPO Box 2646, Adelaide S.A. 5001, Tel: (61) 8 8179 9802, Fax: (61) 8 8350 0080, E-mail:

Tas Racing, Mr Vaughn Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, GPO Box 743, Hobart TAS 7001, Tel: (61) 3 6212 9339, Fax (61) 3 6233 4499,

Racing NSW , Mr Peter V'landys, Chief Executive, Level 7, 51 Druitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Tel: (61) 2 9551 7500, Fax (61) 2 9551 7570, E-mail:

Darwin Turf Club, Mr Andrew O'Toole, Chief Executive, GPO Box 589, Darwin, NT, 0801, Tel: (61) 8 8923 4222, Fax: (61) 8 8923 4233, E-mail:

Canberra Racing Club, Mr Peter Stubbs, Chief Executive, PO Box 275, Mitchell, ACT, 2911, Tel: (61) 2 6241 3888, Fax: (61) 2 6241 5697, Email:

Statistical: (as of 2005)

Racing Season1st August to 31st July
Number of Raceclubs355
Number of FixturesFlat 2,752
Number of RacesFlat 19,821 | Jumping 142
Number of RunnersFlat 194,462 | Jumping 1,258
Number of Horses in Training31,248
Number of Trainers5,056

Principal Races: (by value)

NameRacecourseDistancePrize Money
1. Melbourne Cup (H'Cap)Flemington3200$4,550,000
2. Golden Slipper Stakes (SW)Rosehill1200$3,023,775
3. Cox PlateMoonee Valley2040$2,240,000
4. Caulfield CupCaulfield2400$2,290,000
5. The BMWRosehill2400$2,021,975
6. AJC DerbyRandwick2400$1,912,000
7. Doncaster Derby (H'Cap)Randwick1600$1,935,360


Total Prizemoney (Local Currency - Australian Dollar):$383,961,237
Exchange Rate to US$US$1 : A$1.53
Betting: TotalizatorYes (Off Course:Yes)
Betting: BookmakersYes (Off Course:Yes, limited)
Total Betting TurnoverA$11,700 million (2004/2005)
Principal Bet TypesWin Place Trifecta
Betting DeductionsGovt Tax Bookmakers turnover tax rates range from 1.33% - 2.17%

TAB turnover tax rates range from 15% - 28%

Report on Racing Activities

The 1990s have seen sweeping changes in Australia's racing industry. Pre-1992 the Principal Clubs that control and supervise the industry in each State while recognised by statute still remained true to the racing club model. From that time either legislative or internal reform has taken place in almost every Australian State and in 1996 the control functions of the Australian Jockey Club, Australia's oldest Principal Club, were transferred to a new body, the NSW Thoroughbred Racing Board.

The TABs, first introduced in the early 1960s, have also undergone significant change. Victoria's TAB was the first to be privatised, with NSW following in 1998 and privatisation being considered in several other jurisdictions. In Victoria and NSW TAB privatisation has meant significant increases in industry funding and has been accompanied by comprehensive industry planning. At a national level the Australian Racing Board has replaced the Conference of Principal Racing Clubs and the National Office of Australian Racing as the national administration body for the Australian industry.

In recent years there have also been significant changes in programming, first with the popular introduction of Sunday racing and, more recently, with the introduction of nightracing at the Moonee Valley Racing Club and the Sydney Turf Club.

Industry Employment

It is estimated that the Australian Thoroughbred Racing Industry provides 64,000+ full time equivalent jobs. For further information on jobs and careers in the Australian Racing Industry please visit