History

The Ballarat & Creswick Trotting Club held its inaugural race meeting at the Miners Racecourse on October 25, 1861, the site at which Bray Raceway presently stands. It was a day to remember, a day the club and the harness racing Industry could look back on as the birthday of provincial trotting. The four-race program offered handsome rewards for contestants prepared to tackle these tests of endurance. Top of the bill was a Grand Harness Trot over six miles for the princely sum of 100 sovereigns. A report of the occasion tells us much about the social impact as it does about the racing.

"There were no less than 2000 people on the ground and both the members' stand and the grandstand were crowded with an aristocratic detachment of both sexes who had the opportunity of viewing the sports and being viewed in turn themselves."

"Of the races, we may say that they afforded infinite satisfaction and the arrangements were excellent. The course was in very good condition, and not a single accident of any moment occurred during the racemeeting".

Ballarat immediately became a stronghold of trotting and horses from the district were used as a key to performance. Just seven months after its inaugural meeting, the club pulled off another coup by presenting the first country-trotting race worth one thousand pounds. It would be difficult to translate that amount into modern day currency, but it probably is superior to the highest stakemoney available today.

A new Club was established in 1912, as the Ballarat and District Trotting Club, which held its inaugural meeting on 18 January 1913 at the Buninyong Racecourse. The total stakes for the six race program was 34 guineas.

A new Committee was formed not long after this inaugural race meeting. This resulted in the second race meeting being staged at the Miners racecourse on 15 March 1913. After the meeting at the Miners racecourse numerous other venues and towns within the region hosted the Ballarat and District Trotting Club including Learmonth, Linton, Waubra, Windermere and Smythesdale resulting in race meetings being held regularly. The Miners Racecourse was the facility , which was most regularly used with meetings being conducted on Saturday afternoons. However, in the late 1930's and throughout the 1940's the sport was forced into a recess due to the event of the Second World War.

In 1948, once the War had finished and soldiers began to return home, a working Committee was set up to form an all new Ballarat and District Trotting Club. While the original meetings run by the new club were held at the Miners Racecourse it wasn't long before the club was once again in search of a new home, this time one which would enable them to realise their dream of holding night racemeetings which was a great spectacle for patrons. The club decided to shift its headquarters to the Ballarat Showgrounds where it had the potential to construct light towers for night race meetings and on Easter Monday in 1952 it had accomplished its dreams.

The Club in 1963 once again decided it needed a change and when a portion of the Miners Racecourse came up for lease, due to the amalgamation of the two local turf clubs, The Ballarat and District Trotting Club began negotiations to head back to its old stomping ground. The lease was signed in 1964 and construction on the site commenced.

On 27 October 1966 an estimated 14,000 people witnessed the venue being opened by Sir Henry Bolte, the then Premier of Victoria, with the venue being named "Bray Raceway", in honour of the Club's President at the time, Keith Bray. The track was considered by many as the best country track in Australia with its features being a four- furlong track which was 50' wide having 1 and 1/8 furlong bends and 7/8 furlong straights. The surface of the track was made up of granitic sand forming the top layer and crushed rock, which formed the base. The venue, like the one at the Showgrounds, could also be used for night harness racing with the erection of Quartz Iodine lighting.

In March 1992 the 1000 metre track development was completed. The Ballarat club was the first east coast club to replace the inside running rail with flexi posts. This was met with some opposition at the time (particularly the then H.R.V. Chief Steward Mr Rod Osborne) but now virtually all harness racing tracks in Australasia have followed the Ballarat Club's lead.

The newest chapter in The Ballarat and District Trotting Club's history was unfolded on 3 October 1997 when the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing, Mr Tom Reynolds MP, officially opened the $2 million plus racing facilities redevelopment at Bray Raceway.

The completed project launched the Ballarat club into a new era. Designed in a similar vein to Moonee Valley , the new look Bray Raceway provides the optimum in comfort and convenience for on-course patrons. The racing facilities complement the highly successful to create a total entertainment venue and confirms Ballarat's position as the premier regional harness racing venue in Australia, and secures the Clubs future well beyond the year 2000.The decision to employ its own catering staff has been a winner for the club. The high quality but reasonably priced meals are well received by patrons.

The decision to employ its own catering staff has been a winner for the club. The high quality but reasonably priced meals are well received by patrons.