Horse racing.


see also Vic TOs Race Courses

Since the early days of Colonisation, horse racing was always a popular event.

See the use of the Tasmanian Cable only five days after it was opened in 1859.

When the telegraph was introduced, results could be widely dissemminated more quickly. This had benefits as well as drawbacks.

One of the problems which arose was the rise in off-course betting.

The Maitland Mercury of 1 January 1857 reported that "The line to Ballaarat is now in full working order, and the result of yesterday's and Thursday's raoes were telegraphed to us at the Melbourne Herald) for publication as soon as they were known at Ballaarat".

See Ballarat TO for reference to Ballarat Racecourse

The Geelong Advertiser of Friday 6 February 1874 reported another betting problem involving the telegraph operation. "Another piece of mismanagement on the part of the Telegraph department was, for all we know, the means yesterday of causing money to be bet on a horse that ought to have been "scratched" the day before. On Wednesday Mr A. H. Bartlett telegraphed to the secretary of the Racing Club to scratch Maori for the Hurdle Race but his message was not delivered until near midday yesterday, it being accompanied by a memo, to the effect that it had been overlooked. If any money was lost through the blunder it is a pity the department cannot be made to pay it".

The Bendigo Advertiser of 9 November 1877 observed "The closing of Post and Telegraph offices throughout the colony during the Cup day has again given rise to much adverse comment, seeing that the use of the wires is more urgent on that day than any in the year. The running wires on to the racecourse for the early dissemination of news certainly seem rather inconsistent with closing the country offices".

The Age of 28 February 1882 included correspondence to clarify a grave misinterpretation:

"The following letter has been sent in to the Commissioner of Railways by Mr. Lavater, the Accountant of the Department, with reference to the free passes issued to the Postal Department on the occasion of the Victoria Racing Club Spring Meeting:

"18th February, 1882. — Memo

During the conference held on the 9th of last month, on the subject of free passes, the Hon. the Minister will doubtless recollect that I made a statement that, on one occasion, no less than forty-seven telegraph operators and eleven telegraph messengers had free passes issued to them by the Postal Department to the racecourse and back to report the Derby Day. I find that this statement has been officially denied, and that, during my absence on leave, this denial has found its way into the press and comments have been made which cast a doubt upon the truthfulness of my statement.

I therefore do myself the honor of laying before you, for your inspection and perusal, the original documents connected with the matter, from which it will be seen that, although speaking from memory and not anticipating that my remarks would be made public, I was absolutely correct in every particular. The official return furnished by the Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, showing the free passes issued by him for the week ending the 3rd November, 1877, will be found attached under cover of correspondence No. 77 | 774, together with my minute drawing attention to the issue of the passes in question bearing date 7 | 11 | 77, the Secretary's reply dated 16 | 11 | 77, and my final minute dated the 17th. The passes were issued by the Postal Department on the 1st November, 1877, in the followiug manner:

  • Nos. 290 to 336 inclusive - Forty-seven first-class passes to telegraph operators, Melbourne to racecourse return pass - on duty.
  • Nos. 341 to 351 inclusive — Eleven second-class passes to telegraph messengers, Melbourne, racecourse, return pass, on duty.

I trust this will be sufficient to exonerate me from the charge of having made an unfounded statement.
G. T. A. Lavater, Accountant Victorian Railways."

Mr. Bent has ordered a copy of the memo to be sent to the postal authorities who denied that the number of persons mentioned by Mr. Lavater travelled on free passes".


Even our neighbours "across the ditch" became involved with the use of telegraphy for horse racing:

"It may interest our readers to know that the news of the victory of Navigator in the Derby on Saturday was received at Reuter's office in Wellington, N.Z., before the winning jockey had dismounted, the actual time occupied in transmission from the Flemingion course being less than five minutes, reports the "Argus". Such a feat of telegraphy, over a distance of nearly 2000 miles, has scarcely ever been equalled, and it reflects great credit on the Victorian and other telegraph departments". 
Ovens and Murray Advertiser 2 November 1882.


The Chronicle of 15 August 1903 was one of a number of newspapers to carry the following announcement: "Mr. M. P. Considine (secretary of the Associated Racing Club) writes to the Melbourne press that it has been decided by the Sandown Park, Aspendale Park, Epsom and Mentone racing clubs to discontinue the ordinary telegraph office, that has been open to the public on their courses, and to have, in its place, a private telegraph office as arranged with the Deputy Postmaster-General. All telegrams sent to the course will be delivered in the usual way to the club's clients. Any person wishing to send telegrams away from the course must send them through the secretary. The reason for this alteration is on account of the numerous 'tote' and betting shops that have sprung up in Melbourne, suburbs, and country towns obtaining, through their agents on the different courses, the starters, jockeys, betting and results of races therefore doing a lot of injury to the race meeting, the owners, horses, &c., that attend the races".

As a sign of the times, the Race Meeting of 1929 in Tailem Bend had a totalisator installed and had arranged for patrons to be able to view the races from their cars.

Add here a Press Telegram from Wagga Wagga

On 23 March 1938, the Sporting Globe announced in its columns that "it is unable to send last minute selections by  "collect" telegram as postal authorities will  not accept such messages.  Readers requiring special selections must send us a reply-paid telegram the day before a race meeting".