A Guide to Randwick Racecourse in Australia
It’s quite possibly the most magnificent racecourse in all of Australia, and it’s just a few miles away from the Central Business District in Sydney. Is that convenient enough for you? We are talking about Randwick Racecourse, and we are here to tell you all about it!
The capital of New South Wales is an amazing place. We are going to get into some of the main attractions in Sydney in a section below, but the main objective is to talk all about Randwick Racecourse. If you have never heard of Randwick or had no idea there was a horse racing facility in Sydney, that’s okay! If you are an avid horse racing fan in Australia, this will just a be a refresher about a venue you have probably already visited.
Of course, the Australian Derby is one of the most recognizable horse races on the entire continent, so we’ll make sure to save ample room for discussion on the well-known race. On the topic of well-known races, did you know that in 2017, Randwick Racecourse introduced The Everest, an event with a mind-boggling $10 million purse attached to it?
Don’t worry; we’ll address that competition and more in a segment dedicated to the most significant races held annually at the racecourse at Randwick. Between the bigtime events and all the awesome things to do and see in Sydney, you’ll want to head there as soon as possible. We’ll leave you with some tips and advice when traveling to the splendid city to help keep you organized when planning it all out.
Until then, start with this informative guide detailing the property. Whether you are a frequent visitor or you don’t know much about the stunning racetrack at all, this is a good place to start!
Overview of Randwick Racecourse
- Year Opened
- Ascot, Berkshire, England
- Ascot Racecourse Ltd
- Course Type
- Notable Races
- The Gold Cup, Champion Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes
- Official Website
Randwick Racecourse – Some Background Information
You can thank Richard Bourke, an early governor of New South Wales, for the creation of Randwick Racecourse. Way back in late 1832, Sir John Jamison had begged Governor Bourke to start constructing a racecourse on the unincorporated land. By the summer of 1833, Randwick had held its first horse race. However, things didn’t last long.
The “Sandy Course,” as it was commonly called back then because of the sandy terrain it was built upon, was forced to close in 1838. There simply wasn’t enough interest in Thoroughbred Racing in Sydney at the time.
The good news is that in 1842, the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) was initiated. This was a revamping of sorts of the Australian Racing Committee that was formed two years prior. After searching for a new racecourse to host events, they turned to the old land at Randwick. Racing officially resumed at Randwick in May of 1860, in front of more than 6,000 eager fans.
Things continued to pick up in 1900, in much thanks to the railway station that was created specifically to transport passengers to and from the racecourse. To give you an idea of how important this was to incoming traffic to the racecourse, more than 117,000 people were aboard one of the 664 tram cars in a single day in 1934.
The only thing that could try to slow Randwick down were the World Wars. The grounds were used as a base for departing soldiers during both World War I and World War II, but believe it or not, this didn’t deter races from being held during those years.
The place is so highly regarded that it was even used to host a papal mass on three separate occasions, first occurring in 1970. The Pope returned in 1987 and 2008, drawing in more than 200,000 men and women in attendance each time. There have been concerts at Randwick, notably when the Future Music Festival was held on site from 2006-2015.
Speaking of being highly regarded, we ought to mention that in 1992, Queen Elizabeth II was a spectator at Randwick. She enjoyed her time so much that she requested that the course be called “Royal Randwick” from that point moving forward.
As you can probably imagine, Queen Elizabeth II was not denied when she made such requests, and hence you will often hear the word “Royal” associated with the title of the racecourse.
You should know that the AJC and the Sydney Turf Club merged in 2011 to form the Australian Turf Club, the current authority who has control and command of Randwick Racecourse.
We have much more to tell you about Royal Randwick, especially when we tackle the illustrious races head on! Before we do that, we want to describe the layout of the racecourse. That way, once we get into the esteemed races, you will have a clearer understanding of what attending them would be like!
The Layout at Royal Randwick
The track at Randwick isn’t a perfectly-shaped oval or an exactly round circle, but it’s something in between. The outer track, known as Course Proper, has a perimeter of 2,227 meters, making it the longest turf course in all of New South Wales.
That includes a home straight that is 410 meters long, giving Thoroughbreds enough time to stage a comeback during the final stretch, although it won’t be easy. The home stretch forces the jockeys to guide their horses up a steep incline known as “the rise.”
Enclosed within the outer track is the inner course at Randwick, known as the Kensington Track. After being introduced in 2013, the authorities at Randwick quickly realized it “wasn’t up to par” and needed to be amended. After taking their time, the Australian Turf Club finally reopened Kensington Track in March of 2018.
Randwick also has a full-blown training zone on the property to give the Thoroughbreds an area to prepare for races. This “practice facility” is extremely versatile, consisting of grass, sand, and dirt tracks. There is an inner course within the training grounds, the surface of which is made up of ashes and metal. There is even an equine pool! When you hear people say Randwick has a fully-equipped horse training facility, these are the characteristics they were referring to.
As far as the main racing course goes, barriers and rails can be set up to accommodate races from 1,000 meters to 3,200 meters. The resourcefulness of having multiple starting positions provides loads of excitement for the fans by the time the horses approach the winning post.
The exhilaration witnessed by patrons at Randwick can be experienced from many different angles thanks to the brilliantly-designed Queen Elizabeth II Grandstand.
The Royal Randwick Grandstand
Talk about a gorgeous and efficient grandstand. The Queen Elizabeth II Grandstand at Randwick Racecourse is exactly that. Starting on the ground level, you can get the party started immediately by grabbing a beverage at either the Silks Bar or the Triple Crown Bar and Café. Don’t fill up, as these are just two of your choices, and we haven’t even walked up the stairs or taken the elevator yet!
When you arrive on level 1, you’ll notice two large and exquisite rooms. The Chairman’s Club and the Grandview Room are both furnished with elegant restaurants and dynamite views of the winning post. You might get an even better view of the finish line if you head to level 2 and hang out in one of the Royal Randwick Ballrooms.
By now, you will have most likely finished that first drink and be in need of refilling your beverage. Head up to level 3 and quench your thirst at either the Centennial Bar and Café or the Skyline Bar and Café.
Both offer a variety of food items on the menus, including many that are reasonably priced. This is also where many of the members and their guests will be seated when the races begin for the day.
There’s a sweet outdoor area called “The Platforms” where fans on the third level of the grandstand can go outside and be even closer to the action. With the 360-degree views of the course and the food and drink options available, you might not need to go anywhere else on race day!
If you want to see the fourth and final level, head right on up! It is armed with a beautifully-designed business and lifestyle center, plus more private suites available for viewing. When you are at Randwick Racecourse, you won’t have to worry about having a place to sit or if there’s a location to grab a quick snack or drink before or during the race.
That’s all going to be there. Just focus on snagging a good view of the turf and trying to pick the winning horse. The Randwick Betting Auditorium will be awaiting your action when you arrive!
Acclaimed Races at Randwick
We have given you enough background information on Randwick to start jumping into the races that make the venue so special and so revered. There are two major festivals at Randwick, known as the Spring and Autumn Carnivals.
For those of you who live in America, you must remember that the springtime in Australia starts on September 1 and lasts through the end of November. Consequently, the autumn season is March, April, and May, also known as the transition months.
It is important to note this caveat so that you don’t get confused below. We are going talk about the most prominent events that take place at Royal Randwick. This will include the newest race at Randwick, which happens to be the most lucrative race in all of Australia!
Allow us to start with one of the most coveted titles in Australian Thoroughbred racing: winner of the Australian Derby.
Talk about a horse race rich in tradition; here is an event that started in all the way back in 1861 as the AJC Randwick Derby Stakes, named after the Australian Jockey Club. It was actually held during the spring season before being moved to the Autumn Carnival in 1979.
The Australian Derby is a turf race designed for three-year-old Thoroughbreds who have what it takes to gallop for 2,400 meters, which is right around a mile and a half. There is a lot to cover on the Australian Derby, and quite frankly, we want to do the race proper justice and not rush through it.
That is why you’ll find a button below that will direct you to a world completely devoted to the Australian Derby. Highlights of the most unforgettable finishes and records of the most impressive performances are just a couple of the things you will find.
Click the button and indulge yourself. You won’t be disappointed!
Queen Elizabeth Stakes
You ready for another Group 1 autumn race that garners the attention of every race fan who watches Thoroughbreds in Australia? It’s called the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and it’s held on the Saturday that follows the Australian Derby. If you appreciate and enjoy watching horse races with a lot of money on the line, this one will be right up your alley.
That is because $4 million is on the line when the three-year-old and up Thoroughbreds make their way to the starting gate in this 2,000-meter mega-race. When the Queen Elizabeth Stakes race was first held in 1851, it was run as the Queen’s Plate. Three name changes later, and in 1954, it finally was given the title it goes by today.
As far as the length of the race, you’d need a notebook and pencil to remember all the amendments that have been made over the years. Just know that it started out as an absolute behemoth in 1851 at 3 miles long (about 4,800 meters). It has been the current length of 1 ¼ miles ever since 1986.
Okay, so this race doesn’t have a crazy, 4-million-dollar prize pool attached it. The Doncaster Handicap does, however, have a not-too-shabby $3 million up for grabs each and every Autumn Carnival when the event takes place. While the purse has grown over the years, the origins of the Doncaster Handicap date way back to 1866.
The format of this competition is fairly straightforward. The race lasts 1,600 meters, which is virtually one mile. As long as a Thoroughbred has celebrated their third birthday, he or she is eligible to participate in the Doncaster Handicap.
While all the competitors attempt to set a new mark for the fastest time every year, none have been able to eclipse the 1:33.70 time set by Belmura Lad in 1979.
An even more impressive feat was accomplished in 2005 when Guy Walter trained not only the winning horse but the two who finished place and show (second and third). This is known as the trifecta, and this was the first and only time we’ve seen it done at the Doncaster Handicap.
For all intents and purposes, we aren’t holding our breaths waiting until it happens again!
TJ Smith Stakes
If the Doncaster Mile and Australian Derby weren’t enough racing action for you in one day at Royal Randwick, chances are you’ll be interested in reading about the TJ Smith Stakes. The race that is named in honor of the legendary Australian trainer Tommy John Smith is a 1,200-meter race on the right-handed track at Randwick.
It debuted in 1997 as the Endeavour Stakes, under that status of a Listed Race. Tommy Smith passed away the day before his birthday in 1998, thus prompting the name change to the TJ Smith Stakes in 1999. The (now Group 3) event was upgraded to Group 2 in 2002, before finally being promoted to a Group 1 race in 2005.
Black Caviar won this race in 2011 and 2013, becoming the first horse to win multiple titles at the TJ Smith Stakes. More impressively, Chautauqua won three in a row from 2015-2017.
Since we figured you enjoy multi-million-dollar events, we thought we would just keep rolling them out. The Sydney Cup is another dandy that is part of the Autumn Carnival every April. This $2 million marathon is a bit different than all the other races contested at Randwick.
Two miles is a lot of distance to cover, so only the horses in tip-top shape have a chance to strike gold and capture the title. What started out as the Jockey Club Handicap in 1862 and has evolved into one of the most highly-respected long-distance competitions anywhere in the world.
The handicapped event has been regarded as a Group 1 race since 1980, with only one horse having won the event twice since that date. Australian gelding Tie the Knot won the Sydney Cup in 1998 and 1999, becoming the first horse since Veiled Threat in 1942 and 1944 to win a pair of Sydney Cups.
And now, for our favorite event in this entire guide! You could say we saved the best for last because The Everest is the third-richest race in all of Thoroughbred horse racing. No, not just in Australia, but anywhere at all! It’s held on the second Saturday in October and is the “showcase event” of the Spring Carnival.
“Born” in 2017, The Everest exploded onto the scene with a gargantuan $10 million prize pool. Racing New South Wales chairman Russell Balding told the Sydney Morning Herald:
It’s worth noting this includes the hefty $600,000 entry fee owners must pay to get their Thoroughbred a spot in the field. Once the owner purchases the slot, it is up to him or her what he or she wants to do with it.
Don’t glance past that nuance, as it can have a huge effect on the outcome of the race. Just ask 2017 champion horse Redzel and his owners, the Triple Crown Syndicate. James Holder actually purchased the entry himself before selling it to Triple Crown Syndicate. It is safe to say that in the end, things worked out for both parties.
Exploring the City of Sydney
You don’t have to be a world-class traveler to know that Sydney has a plethora of attractions worth visiting. First and foremost, don’t even think about going to NSW’s capital city and not taking a gander at the Opera House. It is less than 10 km (about 6 miles) from the racecourse and is the true definition of a one-of-a-kind site.
If the weather is good, the iconic Bondi Beach is also less than 10 km from the track at Randwick. Bring a bathing suit and a surfboard and have the time of your life before changing into dry clothes and crossing over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on your way to the Taronga Zoo!
To be fair, we could continue going on and on about places to check out while in Sydney. We feel confident that if you make the trip, you will spend the necessary time to set up an exciting itinerary. All you have to do is fly into Sydney Airport, located less than 20 minutes from Royal Randwick.
Once you land in Sydney, it’s nearly impossible NOT to have a great time!
Randwick Racecourse – The Rundown
We hoped you enjoyed our guide to Royal Randwick Racecourse. It was important to be thorough in our explanations and descriptions. Words certainly cannot emulate or replace physically being there in person, but we wanted to do our best to get you prepped for an upcoming trip.
If you don’t have the time or means to make it to New South Wales, not all is lost. We revealed an abundance of details and insightful information about the racecourse so that you have a good idea of what being there is like. We made sure to talk about the most renowned events, including the Australian Derby and The Everest.
The Randwick Betting Auditorium isn’t the only place to get your bets in on the marquee events. The top online betting sites for horse racing have plenty of action when the events are around the corner.
You know how to get to Sydney, and you know how much fun awaits you when you get there. If anything else, this page is a reminder that the races at Royal Randwick are just part of the amazing experience that is Sydney, Australia.