DEEP in the bowels of Lord’s Raceway lays a hidden chest of harness racing history.
Driver's silks, walls of photos of champions, the entire trophy collection of Mother Courage, sulkies, newspaper articles that date back as far as the 1880s, race programs, books, presentation rugs and even old calls of races on vinyl record are all part of the collection on display in the library underneath the grandstand at Lord’s Raceway.
“We’ve been doing it for two years and basically it’s to collect and honour the industry,” Bendigo Harness Racing Club historian Noel Ridge said this week.
“We’ve got pieces that go back to long before Lord’s Raceway was even open... back to the 1880s when there was a trotting track in the middle of the gallops track at Epsom.
“Up until World War 2 the jockey club program had two or three trotting races as well.”
Having toured the library this week, you don’t have to just be a harness racing aficionado to appreciate the significance of many of the pieces on display.
Like the sulky that Gentleman John hauled Bridgewater’s Eric Rothacker in to win the 1956 Inter-Dominion Pacing Championship in Sydney.
Or the presentation rug awarded to Elmore’s Derby Royale after it won the 1978 Inter-Dominion trotting championship for trainer Cliff Powell.
Among the collection of silks are those worn by Jack Moore aboard Kalamas Peak when they teamed to win the first Bendigo Pacing Cup at Lord’s Raceway in 1965.
“He wore light blue with a red star,” Mr Ridge said.
The walls of the library are adorned with photos of Kalamas Peak and other Bendigo Pacing Cup winners, of which a new champion will be crowned on Saturday night when the 51st edition of the 2650m race is held.
One of the cornerstones of the memorabilia is the entire trophy and rug collection of Bendigo pacing hero Mother Courage, which won 30 races - including the 2002 Bendigo Pacing Cup - and almost half-a-million dollars in prize money.
“She raced for four years from two to six and was one of Bendigo’s best-known horses... it’s a full trophy cabinet,” Mr Ridge said.
Another trophy that will soon be added to the collection is the 1917 New Zealand Pacing Cup won by Adelaide Direct.
“Adelaide Direct was from Baringhup and won its first race at Marong,” Mr Ridge said.
“A lot of horses back in those days went over to New Zealand because the prize money was better.
“The family of the late Stan Lewis who was the owner of Adelaide Direct is returning the New Zealand Pacing Cup to Bendigo, so it will be fantastic to have that as part of the collection.”
Mr Ridge saw his first Bendigo Pacing Cup in 1969 when it was won by Wedderburn’s Adaptor.
More than 40 years on, it’s a race he can clearly recall.
“It was a standing start back then and he was slowly away; was interfered with at the bell when he ran into another sulky and then he took off three-wide down the back straight and that was it... they didn’t see him again,” Mr Ridge said.
“He was then sold as the most expensive harness horse ever exported to America.”
Having first attended 45 years ago, Mr Ridge is looking forward to another big Bendigo Pacing Cup on Saturday night, where star New Zealander Christen Me is a raging hot $1.35 favourite.
"It's always a fantastic race and a big event as a lead up to the Hunter Cup and the Victoria Cup," Mr Ridge said.
"Horses use this as a stepping stone and it's always a big night."
The historical library is open every Bendigo Harness Racing Club meeting.
Anyone who has memorabilia to display in the library can contact Mr Ridge on 0400 923 956.