Crown Land, Elizabeth Annie Morris, Elizabeth Saunders, George Saunders, horseracing, JCU Library, Louisa Emma BENTON, National Library of Australia, Queensland State Archives, Springfield, Suffolk Punch, Townsville Times, Townsville Turf Club, Trove
Throughout his time in Townsville George Saunders exhibited a passion for horses. He gained an income through trading horses and breeding the Suffolk Punch draught horse. Training racehorses occupied much of his time.
Lord George, a bay gelding and perhaps named for his owner, raced in the Townsville Turf Club’s 1875 Christmas Races.
The Christmas Race meeting ran over two days, starting on Boxing Day and featuring such races as the Maiden Plate, the Members’ Cup and the Christmas Gift. The Christmas Gift was the richest of the races with prize money of 40 sovereigns. (A sovereign was a British gold coin worth one pound sterling.)
The racecourse was most likely a reserve of 64 hectares situated east of Dalrymple Road and Hugh Street junction i.e. roughly east from Garbutt Central shopping centre (Garbutt IGA), taking in Melrose Park and in a northerly direction to the long-term car parking at Townsville Airport.
In 1875 the Saunders resided in a “good and substantial dwelling” on parcels of Crown Land with frontages to Dalrymple and Bayswater Roads and only two or three kilometres away from the racetrack. Elizabeth, George’s wife most likely would have attended with their two daughters, six year old Elizabeth Annie and Louisa Emma who was almost three. In early Townsville races were social events, a chance for women to mingle and children to play with other children.
An account of the race meeting was published in the Townsville Times of 29 December 1875. It was a hot day – “terrific heat of the weather” as the journalist from the Townsville Times described it. Despite that a considerable number of spectators watched the races but the number of picnic parties was fewer than normal at race days.
A severe thunderstorm happened after lunch. The track was six or seven years old, and so would have had timber shelters for the racegoers and basic stables for the horses. The storm also caused the last race of the day to be postponed, ensuring a good second day’s racing. Also there were several private matches to be run.
Lord George ran in the Member’s Cup:
This race was a complete boil-over. Cheviot and Lord George had numerous admirers, but old Quartpot was considered by the “knowing ones” to be “nowhere”. Mr W. T. Morris having got the horses away to a good start, Quartpot almost immediately took up the running, with Cheviot second. After racing for about a mile and a quarter Lord George made a rush but was immediately pulled off again …
he [Lord George] went up, passed Cheviot, and ran up to Quartpot. A very good race home ensued, Quartpot winning by half a length. Lord George second and Cheviot nowhere.
The next day Lord George could race again in the Consolation Stakes, prize money 12 sovereigns, for all beaten horses, over one and a half miles.
For this race Lord George was the favourite, as it was uncertain whether Doctor could be persuaded to keep on the course. However, after the flag fall both horses raced neck and neck for a few hundred yards, when Doctor went to the front and kept the lead to the finish, winning easily by two or three lengths.
Lord George – two seconds in two days – impossible to know exactly where this figured in the bay gelding’s training programme. No written records have been handed down through the Saunders’ family. However much can be gleaned from newspaper articles and advertisements, either at Trove, The National Library of Australia free online newspaper archive or on films at the James Cook University library.
Gibson-Wilde, DM, 1984, Gateway to a Golden Land: Townsville to 1884. Studies in North Queensland History No. 7, History Department, James Cook University of North Queensland, Townsville.
Townsville Times, The Christmas Races, 29 December 1875 page 2. Accessed from JCU on microfilm.
The Saunders’ residence – Queensland State Archives, Land Selection Files Item ID62620.