Stables' rich history revealed

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman

Horse racing heritage was showcased when Randwick Stables opened its historical charm to the public recently, at Hamilton Hill.

The significance of Randwick, WA's oldest stables - established in 1924 - along with horse racing in the Fremantle area, has its roots in WA's first horse race at South Beach, now known as Cockburn, in 1833.

The public beach is now heritage- listed and is still available to swim and exercise horses.

Daly Street stables owner Terry Patterson, who posted a pictorial history of Fremantle's rich horse-racing heritage, said many racing families had their origins at South Beach.

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"One of the best horsemen of the time was the late James David Cockell, regarded as the father of country racing, because he would take his horses across the State," he said

"Cockell was known to blister his horses in the salt water, to keep them fresh and alert and aid in any cuts and sores."

Mr Patterson said swimming horses helps with muscle tone and mental fitness.

"Jim bought broken down horses and would get them going again and nearly every one won," he said. "Fremantle-trained horses have won all the prominent national racing events except the Melbourne Cup."

Mr Patterson said two Fremantle jockeys did however win the prestigious Melbourne Cup of their day, including Neville Percival, who beat Phar Lap on White Nose in 1931, and John James Miller, who scored the Caulfield-Melbourne cups double in 1966 on Galilee.

Mr Percival's niece, Florence Banks, who owned the Randwick Stables for 49 years with her horse-training husband Jim, said it was a magical time, after the couple won the 1950 Perth Cup and bought Randwick with the proceeds.

"Jim trained Beau Vase to win the Perth Cup, and incidentally the horse which ran second, Leafred, was stabled at our future home," she said, while revisiting Randwick's celebratory event.

Event co-ordinator Alison Bolas said the property and its surrounds was first owned by Captain George Robb, who arrived at the Swan River colony in 1832.

Historical records show the Leda ship captain took the opportunity to apply for one of the first land grants and was granted an area of 2000 acres stretching from Hamilton Hill to Bibra Lake, skirting to the eastern boundary of what would become Randwick Stables.

In 1854 Charles Manning arrived in Fremantle and took control of the captain's vacant grant. However, after Manning's unsuccessful claim for ownership of Robb's property, north of Rockingham Road, the land was developed into the prosperous horticulture and vineyard enterprise Sunnyside, firstly by Richard Bishop - who owned the property in 1891 - and after about 1902 by WA Chamberlain.

Chamberlain won many major agricultural prizes at local shows for his produce, from 1902 until his death in 1927.

Sunnydale orchard, established by Chamberlain's son, Alexander, was a showpiece of the district for many years, catching the eye of travellers.

Various other owners played a part in the property until the Banks family bought it and stabled many good race horses over the years, including Go John, which won the WA Derby and the Banks' horse, Tinder Parney, started as favourite for the 1960 Cup but was unplaced.

Today Randwick is owned by Main Roads and is rented by Ms Bolas, who lodged a successful heritage listing for South Beach in 2002 and saved nearby Randwick Stables from demolition in 2001.

She continues to run the stables with Ted Miller, the nephew of the double cup-winning Fremantle jockey Johnny Miller.

Ms Bolas said the open day was a great opportunity to showcase the property and invite the public to get the feel of what life was like in the heyday. Other activities on the celebratory day included heavy horse ploughing, light horse brigade re-enactments and festival entertainment.

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