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Why Did Horseracing Become the First Mass Supported Sport in Nineteenth Century Colonial Australia? How Do You Explain Its Continuing Hold on the Australian Public?

  • Date Submitted: 04/29/2013 06:32 PM
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Why did Horseracing become the first mass supported sport in Nineteenth Century Colonial Australia? How do you explain its continuing hold on the Australian public?
Horse Racing has established its significance in both modern Australian society and colonial Australia as an important mass sporting and social event. The expansion of horse racing into what Inglis had described as the first sport to nearly achieve a national sport status in the 19th century can be traced to many geographical and social developments unique to the Australian continent and traditions. The instrumental relationship between the sport and gambling should dually be acknowledged as one of the chief causes to the sports’ dramatic growth and maintaining its position as a national sport. In addition, the horse’s position as one of the major pillars of the colonial economies and the military’s significant possession of horses and official sponsorship of horse racing cannot be underestimated.

Horse racing was beginning to boom in Britain by the late 18th century and this had a profound effect on horse racing in Australia and   cemented the importance of Britain’s profound influence on Australian culture and sport. The first of the major horse racing events held in that country were held at ‘St Leger in 1776, the oaks in 1779 and the Derby in 178” (Cashman, 1995, p1; Adair and Wray, 1997, p2.) Whilst the first official horse racing meet held in the colony commenced only three decades at Hyde Park in 1810. In the early years of the colony, the majority of overseas settlers were of varying social backgrounds made up of both free men and convicts. As a result horseracing in the colony was not only a popular past time of the wealthy gentlemen and officer classes it was also employed as a tool to reinforce the class status quo. The sports support from the upper class relates to their ability to use their wealth to develop the sport, ‘as a privileged sport [horse-racing] always had a wider and more...

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