Malaysian Turf Clubs comprising the Penang Turf Club
Perak Turf Club and Selangor Turf Club
West Malaysia presents an exotic blend of the old and new. The signs of modernity and technological progress are evident in the cities. Yet a short distance away, one sees the country at its rustic best. It is also home to three of the region’s finest turf clubs; the Penang Turf Club, Perak Turf Club and Selangor Turf Club.
PENANG TURF CLUB
Penang also known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ with a population of over a million, is located off the northwestern coast of West Malaysia.
Its golden beaches and blue seas have proved irresistible to visitors for decades. The museum and art gallery, built in 1816, provide a record of the fishing, agricultural and natural history of the island and the Botanical Gardens, which covers 30 hectares, is the only one in Malaysia.
Penang also boasts of having the 3rd longest bridge in the world. Penang is also home to the oldest turf club in the country and is one of the most unique in the world.
For located amongst its 238-acre site is an 18-hole golf course with seven holes surrounded by the racetrack of 1910 metres. With beautifully landscaped hillocks and valleys as the backdrop, Penang Turf Club sets the mood for any racegoer who visits the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.
PERAK TURF CLUB
Perak Darul Ridzuan, the ‘Land of Grace’ covers an area of 21,000 square kilometers and has a population of about 2 million is home to Perak Turf Club with a course of 1,591 metres. For centuries, Perak was renowned for its rich tin deposits from which it is believed to have derived its name. Its administrative centre and state capital is Ipoh.
Today, Perak Turf Club conducts its races on a fine course, the backdrop for which is Gunong Korbu, one of the highest peaks in the main range of the Peninsula. The Club is the custodian of a Perak racing tradition that goes back nearly 119 years, the first meeting having been held at Taiping, then the State capital, in 1886 by the first Perak Turf Club. Its course was the cradle of racing in the Peninsula.
The first Perak Derby, for stakes of RM1,000, over 1½ miles, was won by T. W. Raymond, a noted amateur rider, on Locky. Ipoh was a fast-developing town and the Ipoh Gymkhana Club started in February 1913 on the new course with a meeting open only to amateur riders. Ipoh became the main centre of racing in the state, although the Perak Gymkhana Club and later the Taiping Turf Club were to carry on racing at Taiping for many years.
In 1926, the Perak Turf Club officially came into existence. The first Chairman of the Perak Turf Club was J C Osborne, Vice-Chairman was C.B. Redway and other members of the Committee were Chung Ah Ming, P.G. Short, K.R. Coullie, P.J. Roy Waugh and J. Whyte. Chung Ah Ming was the only Asian member of the Committee for many years. First Secretary of the Club was T.I. Brocklebank and the Club boasted a membership of 450.
The first event at the Ipoh Gymkhana Club’s meeting was the Miners’ Cup, presented by Kinta miners. It was a distance race for “pony roadsters” and was won by Gang Robber, owned, trained and ridden by Dr H. Jacques. Other trophies presented were the Planters’ Cup, the Merchants’ Cup and the Bar Cup (by the lawyers). Irishmen presented the St Patrick’s Mug. World War I severely curtailed racing in the region, but the Ipoh Gymkhana Club at its Spring Meeting in 1919 ran its first-ever professional meeting. For the first race, the Opening Stakes (RM400), there were only two starters and there was an upset, witty, F. O’Connor up, beating the favourite, Jillawarra, ridden by Rube Billet, later a well-known trainer, but then at the peak of his riding career. The Sultan’s Cup, over I mile and two furlongs, was won by LaGeorge, carrying 9.10, in a time that stood as a record for many years.
F. Douglas Osborne was first Chairman of the Perak Turf Club, with C.B. Redway as Vice-Chairman. Membership was 450. Under the enthusiastic patronage of Sultan Iskandar Shah, who for years owned the largest and one of the most successful strings of horses racing in the region, the Club made fine progress. The last meeting under the Straits Racing Association rules before the start of the Pacific War was at Ipoh. There was however, some racing during the Japanese occupation.
Perak had the same rehabilitation problems as other clubs, but facilities were back to pre-war standards by 1951. By 1960, the Club has extended its activities into other sports and community projects at State and national levels. The club can claim a number of “firsts” for the Malayan turf. It was the first club to introduce graded stakes for the various classes (July 1950). The system was generally adopted in 1962. In 1950, the club big stakes for classics, with RM25,000 for the Perak Derby, over 1½ miles, won by Indian Heather. In 1959, it ran the first RM1 million Big Sweep, with a record first prize of RM400,000. In 1960, the Club was the first to introduce the digit forecast pool. In 1961, it experimented with morning and afternoon racing, with a 12-event card in November 1961.
The only Stud Farm in Malaysia is located in Tanjung Rambutan which is about 16 kilometres from Perak Turf Club and visitors to the Perak Turf Club often visited the National Stud Farm.
SELANGOR TURF CLUB
The Selangor Turf Club traces its humble beginning to the efforts by a group of amateur racing enthusiasts mainly the British officers in the late 1800’s to establish a venue for their recreational activity. By the late 1800’s, Kuala Lumpur had become the capital of the state of Selangor and it was within such time that the Selangor Turf Club was founded.
Racing meets were, by far among the most popular and cosmopolitan attractions of the time. First traces of these activities were evident by the year 1890 with the founding of the Selangor Gymkhana Club. There were no ‘professional’ races at that time since there were no professional jockeys and instead attracted a host of prominent Europeans who happened to be good horsemen, to participate in the races. This however was to make way for greater professionalism with the establishment of the Selangor Turf Club in 1896 and saw the Club being moved to its site at Jalan Ampang.
Soon, horse racing took on more serious role where professional jockeys rode races and owners began obtaining horses, mainly from Australia. The Selangor Turf Club also became a member of the Straits Racing Association, now called the Malayan Racing Association to conduct professional races.
In March 1896, the Selangor Turf Club hosted its first race meeting. There were seven races per day over two consecutive days for each meeting. The most prestigious race at that time was the Miner’s Purse with stakes money of $1,000. By 1906, membership of the Club had grown to 300.
By 1956, horse racing had gained such a large following so much so that the old attap shed was deemed insufficient to house all the racing fans and was replaced by a modern grandstand, built at the cost of $1 million. Races were changed to Sunday instead of Wednesday. As racing grew in leaps and bounds, more racing days was added and in 1976 saw the totalisator being computerized. Three years later a new computerized sell-pay system was introduced.
Sungei Besi Racecourse
In 1988, the Club took the momentous decision to relocate from its cradle in Jalan Ampang to a new and bigger site in Sungei Besi. Construction work began in June 1990 and three years later, the Selangor Turf Club opened its brand new state-of-the-art racecourse with multi-purpose sports facilities.
The grandstand is designed as two parallel buildings with a light and air well between them thus providing greater interconnection between the indoor areas and the natural environment. The roof of the grandstand is the dominant element. It is a collection of “wings” that appear to hover the building, overlapping each other like the feathers on a bird. The roofs on the West side cascade down to form a giant louver, which keeps out the sun while catching the breeze. It caters to a capacity of 25,000 racing fans.
The racetrack is 2,000 metres long and 30 metres wide, left-handed and is turfed with El-Toro Zoysia grass. It also has a double home bend cambered at gradients of 1 to 11 and the two bends was considered essential to allow for future upgrading works or repairs or resting of one of the turns while keeping the other operational.
Other training facilities include a 30 metres turf training track, a 15 metres sand training track, a barrier trial track, infield trotting ring, bull ring and a two-lane heath track. The centre also has some of the finest stabling which can accommodate about 720 horses and each module is configured in a triangular setting in a response for security and also to provide a good environment for the horses. The design of the modules also encouraged cross ventilation and low heat gain that can be experienced by thoroughbreds in the tropics.
This complex was opened on April 1994 by His Majesty Yang DiPertuan Agong Sultan Azlan Shah and a race called the STC Official Opening Commemorative Stakes was ran in honour of this occasion.