The original two clubs racing at the Newmarket track, the Rand Turf Club and the Newmarket Turf Club, used to be called the Rand Sporting Club (Pty) Ltd, and the West Rand Racing Club (Pty) Ltd., respectively. Their names had to be changed in 1953 because of a Provincial requirement that raceclubs could only be operated on a non-proprietary basis.
The West Rand Racing Club (Pty) Ltd originally raced at a racecourse called Millsite near Krugersdorp, where racing started in 1919. The Rand Sporting Club (Pty) Ltd. raced at Newclare near Johannesburg from the year 1922. In 1938 the Rand Club transferred its activities to the newly built Newmarket racecourse in Alberton. The West Rand Racing Club, which raced under the control of the Owners and Trainers Association of the Transvaal, carried on racing until 1942 at Millsite. Peculiarly, racing was conducted at Millsite racecourse by the privilege of a surface permit only (the actual mineral rights were owned by the West Rand Consolidated Mine). The stakes that the West Rand club was able to afford were ridiculously low, but quite commensurate with the meagre turnover generated. For example, just prior to the war the stakes at Krugersdorp for an entire race meeting totalled approximately 240 pounds. The situation was somewhat similar at meetings held by the Rand Sporting Club. In 1943, after the move to Newmarket, the stakes had risen to over 2 000 pounds for both clubs, and turnover was in the vicinity of 20 000 pounds. This pattern was maintained for the duration of the war.
After the war, and during the 1950's, stakes had to be reduced for both these clubs to make ends meet. There were many occasions when funds had to be lent from club to club in order to obtain sufficient "change" to conduct a racemeeting. Actually, the Owners and Trainers' came into the picture, as far as the Rand Sporting Club (Pty) Ltd. was concerned, in 1942 when Millsite racecourse was taken over by the military authorities to be used as a military camp.
The Rand Sporting Club had already moved to Newmarket in 1938, and the West Rand Racing Club offered to buy the shares of the Rand Sporting Club (this included the Newmarket Racecourse) in 1942. The West Rand Racing Club was owned by the Owners and Trainers Association of the Transvaal. The deal was clinched at a figure of approximately 42 000 pounds, and was financed by a 6% debenture issue offered by the West Rand Racing Club, which now moved to Newmarket.
In 1947 the position appeared ominous in that there was a threat that the West Rand Racing Club (Pty) Ltd. would have to revert to racing at Millsite, which would have been ruinous as far as the club was concerned. The General Manager of the West Rand Consolidated Mine was approached and asked whether he would exercise his rights under his mining title. This he was pleased to do as he felt racing on the mine property was somewhat of a nuisance. By this time the Millsite track had become dilapidated and the buildings looked as if they were about to collapse. It was shortly thereafter that the West Rand Racing Club was given permission by the Provincial Authorities to share Newmarket racecourse permanently with the Rand Sporting Club. They each raced on 15 days per year (mid week), which was later increased to 16 each. Millsite as a race course was a thing of the past.
In 1989 the provincial authorities decreed that only one raceclub may race at a particular racecourse, and that such club must own the racecourse on which it races. To comply with this directive the Newmarket racecourse property had to be bought from the Owners and Trainers Association.
Today the Newmarket Turf Club owns and races on Newmarket racecourse. Racing at the track still takes place only during the week, not on weekends.
As a test for horses Newmarket is more severe than Gosforth Park, and probably in the same league as Turffontein, although the 1200m straight is probably the stiffest 1200m on the Rand.
There is a 1300m course incorporating a dog leg. Once runners have gone through the turn, there is a long 800m stretch to the winning post. It is this straight that makes the course a hunting ground for long striding horses as they are able to coast around the circuit and steadily make up ground approaching the winning post. In contrast, races run down the straight over 1000m and 1200m are won in equal share between front winners and horses preferring to come from off the pace.
Today, after extensive alterations and much improved racing conditions, Newmarket prides itself as being one of the top racing clubs in South Africa. Interestingly, Newmarket's richest feature race is the Gr3 Owners and Trainers Handicap, run for a stake of R200 000 and o9ver a distance of 2850m.
The club also stages an exciting series of feature races, the Newmarket Stayers Triple Crown for three-year-olds. This Triple Crown is spread over a period of three months and has an added bonus of R300 000 for the horse that can win all three legs: the Gr3 Transvaal Tattersalls Bookmakers Association Stakes (2000m), the Gr3 Computaform Derby (2400m) and the Gr3 SA St Leger (2850m).
Other feature races include the R150 000 Gr2 Newmarket Stakes (WFA) run over 2000m, the R150 000 Gr3 Administrators Handicap (open) run over 1600m.
During last year, the Newmarket Turf Club conducted an extensive feasibility study on the prospects of night racing. Provided all goes well, and after the necessary alterations and security measures have been effected, night racing is due to commence in two years time, on Thursday 27th January 1994.
All that should make sure that racing at Newmarket remains what the club set out to promote itself as: simply a better bet.
Newmarket Racecourse, Newmarket Turf Club, Newmarket Stayers Triple Crown, Gr3 Transvaal Tattersalls Bookmakers Association Stakes, Gr3 Computaform Derby, Gr3 SA St Leger, Gr2 Newmarket Stakes, Gr3 Gerald Rosenberg Handicap, Gr3 Administrators Handicap