Bendigo harness racing history to go online

THE result of every harness race run in Bendigo from 1855 to 1954 will soon be available at the click of a finger.

It follows months of pain-staking research from passionate Melbourne-based harness racing historian John Peck.

His 304-page Trotting Annals Bendigo and Environs 1855 – 1954 is expected to be available online at the Bendigo Library within weeks.

Peck, who was last year inducted into the Victorian Harness Racing Media Association Hall of Fame, has spent countless hours delving into the records and old newspapers at the State Library over the last 12 months to compile his research.

He describes it as a labour of love.

“Dad and granddad always went to the races – they never owned a horse, but they always went to the races at the Showgrounds,” he said.

It is not the first time Peck, who previously worked for the former Australian Trotting Record publication, has compiled in-depth works for Victorian harness racing clubs.

His previous research works include histories of the Ballarat and Horsham clubs, with plans to eventually add Geelong.

He says his motivation for compiling the history was simple.

“Trotting just doesn’t get the coverage it deserves,” Peck said.

“There’s no officials results pre-1954. I have just done Bendigo, there’s a file I work on twice a week which is now up to 3400 pages. That’s every trotting race in Victoria since 1838.

“And it’s still being added to because I have done everything on Trove on all the metropolitan newspapers and now I’m going through all the country ones.

“I’m doing Kyneton at the moment.”

The annals record Bendigo’s first trotting race as taking place at Myers Flat on November 22, 1855, when the Tennant family-owned Bobby defeated a Mr Brown’s horse in a match-race for 20 pounds over a distance of one-and-a-half miles.

Among the more popular match-race courses in the 1850s and 60s were from the former Glasgow Arms in Kangaroo Flat, to the Victoria Hotel in Pall Mall, Black Swan Hotel and Victoria Hotel, many of them starting at 5am.

Peck’s research also includes an extensive list of trotting results from Bendigo Agriculture Society Sports meetings conducted at Bendigo Showgrounds and long-since disappeared tracks like Axedale, Eaglehawk, Goornong, Marong, Myers Creek, Raywood, Sebastian and Toolleen.

Trotting just doesn’t get the coverage it deserves.

John Peck

Bendigo Harness Racing Club historian Noel Ridge said the research shed plenty of light on the history of the sport in Bendigo and dispelled a few myths.

“A lot of people think trotting started with the opening of Lords Raceway in 1954, but in actual fact it’s been going for more than 100 years,” he said.

“This research is not all about the horses, but it’s the people and the places and the whole social aspect that was going on at the time.

“In the (gold) boom, they had some serious horses – the wealthy people engaged in horse racing big-time, so it’s a big part of Bendigo history.”

Ridge said the club was indebted to Peck for his tireless work and looked forward to it being made available to the public.