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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)


First Petone Race Meeting, 1842.

The first race meeting held in Petone was an important event in its early history. Quite evidently Petone was chosen because its long stretch of sandy beach presented the only site for a course, either in Wellington or the Hutt Valley.
A racy account of the event has been left on record by E. J. Wakefield, who occupied the important office of clerk-of-the-course. He managed by "dint of begging and borrowing" to equip himself with full regalia, including a pink coat, which had seen service in the East Indies and Australia.
The race was held on October 20th, 1842, that day being chosen because "a very low spring tide would leave a hard sandy beach uncovered." The course extended from the mouth of the Hutt river to the Pito-one pa, a distance of about 1 3/4 miles. A grandstand of "a few planks on the top of eight or ten water butts … supporting chairs out of the carts "had been erected at the finishing post near the pa.
" Carts, waggons, bullock-drays, were all pressed into the service to-day, and the line of road (from Wellington) was a miniature representation of that from Epsom. Six or eight ladies came over in a spring-cart containing chairs covered with flags, and the only gig in Wellington brought over the chemist from Medical Hall, and two other shopkeepers." The band came in a waggon, and a "large flotilla of boats "brought a large company.
When the first race started, at 11 a.m., there were five or six hundred present.
Entries for the chief race at £10 10s. each had closed, with nine entries, some months previously.
The most active steward was "Old Jenkins" (Robert Jenkins) mine host of the New Zealander Hotel, who had recently been elected a member of the first borough council of Wellington.
Before the race, the clerk had to supervise the removal of boulders and glass bottles from the course, and beg "Te Puni to have the natives' dogs carefully tied up, and to keep the pigs at home," also "to explain to a party of natives why they could not lie basking on the middle of the beach."
Out of the nine nominated, seven horses started, one paid forfeit, and another had been killed by a bullock some weeks before.
The Maoris had as their favourite, "Calmuc Tartar," because its owner, Mr. Molesworth, was a Hutt resident.
" Figaro," a thoroughbred from Sydney, was favoured by the white people.
The following is a press description of the race:—

"Pito-One Races.
Thursday, October 20, 1842.

Sweepstakes for ten guineas each. Gentlemen riders. Heats of one mile and three-quarters.
The following horses started:—
Mr.Watt's ch. h. Figaro, ridden by owner 1 1
Mr. Molesworth's bk. h. Calmuc Tartar, riden by owner 2 2
Mr. Virtue's gr. g. Marksman, ridden by owner 3 0
Mr. G. Hunter's b.m. Temperance, ridden by Dorset 4 4
Mr. Bannister's ch. g. Sulky, ridden by Wade 5 3
Capt. Buckley's br. g. Daylight, ridden by owner 6 dr.
Mr. Revan's gr. h. Mazeppa, ridden by Tyser dist.
Figaro's superior blood enabled him to win both heats with the greatest ease. He was the favourite throughout, and freely backed at 5 to 1 after the first heat.
Several other matches were afterwards made up on the spot, of which we believe the following to be a correct account.
Sweepstakes for one pound each. One mile.
Mr. Revan's bk. g. Dandy, ridden by Dr. Dorset 1
Col. Wakefield's ch. g. Beau, ridden by Mr. Watt 2
Mr. G. Hunter's br. g. Wai-ake-ake, ridden by owner 3
Mr. Allen's gr. g.____, ridden by owner 4
Mr. Virtue's b. m 5
Matches for one pound a side. One mile.
Mr. C. Von Alzdorf's bk. g. Black Billy beat Mr. Machattie's bay pony.
Mr. Lyon's cart-horse beat Mr. Virtue's cart-horse.
Match for five pounds a side. One mile.
Colonel Wakefield's ch. g. Beau beat Mr. Virtue's bay mare."
The day closed with a race dinner at Barrett's hotel.
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When Childstone won the Steward's Handicap.
Driven by Mr. H. Styles, 1905, on the Petone Recreation Ground.

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