Unique History and Facts About Launceston Cup Horse Racing

Unique History and Facts About Launceston Cup Horse Racing

It can be argued that competitive horse racing can trace its roots back for thousands of years. Over time, these events became more formalised and began to draw spectators from all walks of life. This is particularly true in reference to Australia, as the sport is considered to represent one of the most renowned national pastimes. 

Many competitions enjoy a long and diverse history; the Launceston Cup representing an excellent example. Let’s take a quick look at some interesting facts about horse racing and its relationship with the Launceston Cup. You might be surprised to learn about its unique origins.

Stemming from Humble Roots

Many experts believe that the first official Launceston Cup was held in 1865. However, we need to appreciate the fact that its earliest origins actually date as far back as 1824. Unsurprisingly, the first competition was rather informal and it was held along Elphin Road in present-day Launceston. It is unfortunate that no official records were kept during these years, so relatively little information is known about the races themselves or the outcomes.

This all changed in 1865 when a formal competition known as the Champion Race came into existence. An impressive 6,000 spectators gathered for the event; quite a formidable number at the time when we consider that some came from as far as Melbourne and Tasmania. While not officially known as the Launceston Cup at the time, most feel that 1865 was the year associated with its formal creation.

Raucous Appetites

One of the other traditions which has flavoured the Launceston Cup over the years is the rather liberal distribution of alcohol. Although many articles which delve into historical horse racing facts and figures focus solely upon the outcome of the competitions themselves, we need to keep in mind that these events were also viewed as times to celebrate with the help of a bit of alcohol. In fact, no fewer than eleven liquor venues were present on the course. The good news is that the majority of attendees displayed good behaviour (notwithstanding one instance of a coat being stolen which caused the suspected thief to receive a “thrashing”).

More Than Horse Racing Alone

While the modern Launceston Cup is obviously famous for its horse races, it is interesting to note that earlier competitions included additional attractions such as:

  • Cricket competitions.
  • A volunteer’s ball.
  • A champion rifle match.

It is, therefore, no great surprise that the cup itself has drawn quite an eclectic crowd over the years.

Surviving the Great Depression

While the Launceston Cup thrived during the late 19th and early 20th century, the Great Depression soon loomed just over the horizon. As if a testament to its rich history, even this massive economic downturn was unable to quell the attraction of the event. Bookmakers were even allowed to return in 1933 as a means to entice more fans (they had been previously banned from entering the grounds in 1897). Thus, it does indeed appear that the fame of the Launceston Cup is here to stay.

The Launceston Cup in 2019 and Beyond

The Launceston Cup 2019 was recently held on the 27th of February. It is now estimated that the event draws between 10,000 and 12,000 attendees on an annual basis. Total course distances have also changed over time; from 4,800 metres between 1865 and 1873 to the present 2,400 metres. While fashion and technology have certainly evolved since 1865, the fact of the matter is that the Launceston Cup still provides the very same sense of excitement that has attracted countless fans for more than 150 years.

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