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A NEW RACECOURSE.
THE HELENA VALE RACE CLUB
FORMATION OF THE COURSE AND
On Saturday morning last I was granted the favour of a special visit of inspection of the new racecourse near at hand to Midland Junction, on which the recently registered Helena Vale Race Club will hold its race meetings. Mr. Sainsbury, of the firm of Denny and Sainsbury, the architects and surveyors to the club, made the trip with, and for tho nonce, was my guide, philosopher and friend. He ful- filled to the letter the sociable qualities of each character, driving me out from Mid- land Junction to the locale of the course in a comfortable buggy, philosophising while en route to the scene on the morals-and immorals-of racing, which we found a controversial topic of conversation. _ A short resume of the circumstances leading up to the formation of the Helena Vale
-Race Club will fit in here.
Some twelve months ago Messrs. T. F. Elliott (the owner of Bain Marie and others) and S. Dick (who owned the Mentor geld- ing Fun as a two-year-old) bought from Mr. James Morrison, of Guildford, an area of 150 acres, then thick with scrub, about two miles out from Midland Junction and situate near the Albany railway line. The purchasers were impressed with the excellence of the investment mado by the Canning Park Turf Club proprietary, and
were imbued with the idea of making a racecourse upon their newly acquired pro- perty, the same to be registered and used by a proprietary. A little time intervened
before Messrs. Elliot and Dick were suc- cessful in interesting a number of gentle- men (" men of the right sort," to quote Mr. Sainsbury) in the proposed venture, but with the initial difficulties overcome, the rest was comparatively easy. To be con- cise, a syndicats was formed to take over the land bought and to form a proprietary racing club. The shareholders were limited to twenty in number, and the original " prespectors " of the " field " benefited to the extent of receiving promoters' shares in the concern* Among the twenty share- holders, men with the local interests of the .Midland Juntion and Helena Vale districts at heart were included, with also several Guildford residents and city sportsmen. To give a metropolitan tone to the venture the headquarters of the club were fixed in Perth, and the registration of the office of the Helena Vale Race Club on St. George's terraee was effected, after which the Western Australian Turf Club granted official registration to the club as a racing
The clearing of the 150 acres involved some work which, when effected, was fol- lowed by the preliminary of surveying and laying out the line of a course, and Messrs. Denny and Sainsbury, to whom this work was entrusted, were given a free hand to lay out " what must be the widest, and what ought to be the fastest, course in tho colony," which was tha effect of the in- structions given them by the directors. The surveyors gave the plans their un- divided attention, and, forming an opinion upon the as yet unfinished state of the
work at the course which I saw on Satur- day, the consummation offthe wishes of the
directors should be assured.
The course proper, as laid out, is about an equal length with the track of the Western Australian Turf Club. That is to
say, it is a little over a mile and a quarter
round-and the start for all mile and a quarter events would be made a few yards away from the judge's box. The width of the course is quite its best recommendation. '. It should be t-*o chains wide," wa3 the decision of the directors, and the surveyors assented to the wisdom of the decision. Laid out at the length stated, and made two chains wide, tho course wa3 one that
would be very highly appreciated by owners, trainers and jockeys alike, and therefore the decreasing of the width of the running by half a chain, recently resolved upon, is to be somewhat regretted. It was not by a unanimous vote of tho directors
that the width of the course was reduced. Indeed, Mr. R. Wolfe, one of the directors, assured me that he was personally opposed to the move made. Leading out of the straight past the judge's box there is still a little incline-just such another as that leading out of the Perth course straight - which, however, is being levelled, the dirt taken out of the hill being used for banking the track and levelling it in other places. There were other portions of the course on which drainage water from adjacent hills would lie during the winter, but these have been drained and embanked, and should be secure from the water trouble in future. The half-chain taken off the width of the course proper is to be used for a training track, upon which, however, not a great number of horses may be expected to work, as metropolitan-trained horses for the most part will be running at the meetings when once commenced.
The Brothers Broadwood were the first contractors for the forming, clearing, and making of the course, and they got the work to a fairly advanced stage when Mr. Edwin Rudd, who at present has the work in hand, took the contract over, and that contractor has now over a dozen men ploughing, clearing, and levelling the course, with rolling as the next process in
view. There are still small sticks and stones-the residue of the original scrnb clearing operations-on the course proper,, but these will all be picked up and thrown off before rolling is commenced. Mr. Rudd is making great headway with his portion
of the contract, and should " hand over " the cour;,* proper to the club in perfect
erder some time next month.
Mr. G. Napier, who was the contractor for recent Canning Park improvements, has the contract for the erection of the administrative buildings, the stabling and birdcage buildings, and the entire fencing of the course, and is to be congratulated on the excellence of his work as advanced to date. The fencing around the members' and grandstand enclosure and the birdcage is stayed and strutted so admirably that, should a gale blow ever so hard, it will find a resisting force capable of withstanding the strongest wind in the 13ft.-high fencing. The roofing of the roomy stalls in tne birdcage is another feature of the workmanship displayed by Mr. Napier and his 21 workmen. The same good work has been put into the construction of two totalisator houses - each holding two
machines-one in the enclosure and one on the flat ; in the jockey?' room (lined with wood), chaff-house, latrines, etc. The buildings now up are all of the best jarrah, of which material also the members' stand -which will be ready for the initial race meeting-is to be constructed. The pro- vision for a birdcage full of horses has been made by Mr. Napier, 32 stalls being built. The " paddock " extends three and a half chains away from the jockeys' room, is l8 chains long, allowing for the inclusion of a carriage paddock and birdcage in one. The contractor has yet to commence the fencing of the course proper, which work will be proceeded with when Mr. Rudd has the level of the course quite obtained. This post-and-rail fencing is to bo of solid make, and to be strutted to ensure its security.
The length of the straight running will be two furlongs, one of the longest straights in the colony, and altogether when finished the course should be a model one.
In clearing "the flat" the woodman spared more than one tree, under instruc- tions, the age of some half-dozen fathers of .the forest -being respected, and these old gums afford a shade that should be appre- ciated by the patrons of that portion ot the course. Mr. Napier's suggestion that rings be placed in the trunks of these ttees for
the convenience of horsemen or those driving out to the course, whereat they may tie their horses up, is an excellent one that may be improved upon by the placing of a tew seats in the shade which the louage of the trees will afford on the sunniest days. Several of the variety known as " Christmas trees " were also allowed to stand, and when in bloom these should add considerably to the ju'ettincss of the landscape view from the grandstand enclosure. The course is situated some- what similarly to Canning Park-within a
reasonable distance of the foot of some hills, in among a small forest of trees, a comparatively secluded spot, though the eastern railway line is within a dozen chains of the grandstand enclosure " front gate."
The'erection of a platform alongside the line will be effected in time for the first race meeting, andlater a siding right along- side of the course with ia station proper, as at Canning Park, may be needed.
To date the work accomplished on the course, the direct result of the enterprise of the directors of the clnb-who have been prompt in the payment of calls to provide funds to carry it on-and the energy of the surveyors and contractors is well advanced and particularly satis- factory. It amply evidences the advance of the " sport of kings ¡" it testifies that the Helena Vale Race Club is establishing itself on a firm footing, and suggests that it purposes coming to stay. With this end in view the directors have next to consider well the appointments that they will require to make in the personnel of the necessary officials. They have chosen well at the outset in electing Mr. W. W. Berry secretary. That gentleman has only to display the same administrative faculty in handling the reins of the Helena Vale Club as he has in connection with the Canning Park T.C. to ensure its success. While casting no reflection upon the integrity of similar office-bearers in connec- tion with other clubs, I dare voice the popular opinion that a complete change in th faces of the majority of those who act at other courses (the startership excepted)
would be welcomed.
The Helena Vale Race Club will hold its first meeting on St. Patrick's Day-Thurs- day, March 17 next-and the time will be opportune for the powers that exist in connection with the new institution to conduct tho racing on their new course on new Unes, under the supervision of new officials. The " Dakin" of the colony has yet to be unearthed, and the H.V.R.O. would make n move that would be un- doubtedly popular if they at least gave a tritihto a new handicapped At an annual general meeting of the W.A. Turf Club, Mr. J. C. H. James wittily observed that he was unaware whether or not there was an import duty on handicapped. There is no such Custom levy, and there is similarly no absoluto necessity to import new weight adjusters. New blood in the line of han- dicapped is among3t us locally, to bo found if sought after, and the new club has a chance now of asserting its inde- pendence in a direction that would have a vital bearing upon the popularity of its meetings.