Dalby has a long history of horse racing. This picture is of the Dalby Race Track in the 1930s. Picture: Joy Shields.
Dalby has a long history of horse racing. This picture is of the Dalby Race Track in the 1930s. Picture: Joy Shields.

Dalby’s rich history of horse racing

William Chambers was born in the Hunter River district in the early days and always had an interest in racing.

This started as a young boy when he worked in butcher shops and soon he became a slaughterman for the Mayo Brothers in Maitland who had some excellent racehorses.

In fact they won the Melbourne Cup twice with Lord Cardigan in 1903 and Acrasia, a year later.

Chambers decided to come to Queensland and later ended up in the Dalby district.

He was living in a bark hut in Dalby during the 1870s, a popular time for horse racing.

Jimbour and Cumkillenbar always had their thoroughbreds. Odd second class horses were raced and won many a race interspersed between periods of hard work.

One of these was Messenger from Cumkillenbar and often when the station mail was wanted in a hurry, old Messenger used to run in for it and made rather light work of the 20km journey each way.

The first record in the Turf Register of a Dalby race was on March 17, 1873.

It was the St Patrick’s Day races with a program of seven events. Well known racing identity Morgan Cavanagh won the St Patrick’s Cup with a chestnut gelding, Jemmy Slow.

Cavanagh also won the Maiden Plate with his horse Carbine.

The Dalby annual race meeting was held four months later in July.

At that meeting, Sam Moffatt’s horse Messenger, that was used as the mail horse between Dalby and Cumkillenbar, won both heats of the Stockman’s Purse, but afterwards suffered defeat in the Hack Race which was won by Morgan Cavanagh’s Tory Boy, while his horse Carbine won the Dalby Town Plate. On the second day of the races, Carbine won the Christmas Handicap.

However Tory Boy had bad luck in the Shearer’s Purse. He was two lengths ahead of Messenger coming up to the finish line when a dog ran out across the course and threw him out, allowing the mail horse to come home a winner.

Carbine at one time was sold as a colt to a young fellow who was running out wild horses on Dunmore and Mamaduke stations and was knocked about, but after a spell on good feed recovered.

Afterwards he was sold to a Dalby commission agent and taken to Brisbane where he pulled of some good races.

Then he was sold to a Sydney racing man who sent him by boat to his new destination.

However he never made it as the ship struck heavy weather and Carbine, along with several Sydney horses, were washed overboard and drowned.

His former owned suffered the same fate. Morgan Cavanagh was travelling to Surat with some horses. They camped beside a lagoon for the night.

In the morning Cavanagh went to shoot some ducks on the lagoon as he always carried his gun with him.

He got a couple and swam in for them and got tangled up in the rope weed which grew in the water. His companions later found his body tangled up in the weed.

His death cast quite a gloom over Dalby at the time as he was a very popular chap and a real good sport.


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