Through The Years


The AJC opened in a fairly rugged environment in 1890 – today many of the Club’s critics tend to say nothing has changed – and after a few years of racing the Club closed for much-needed development.  It was April 1902 when the AJC re-opened following major expenditure on the course. At that time the Club sunk about 6000p into a revamp that extended the track and upgraded the amenities.


Electrically–operated starting gates were first used at Avondale in 1913 for the running of the Avondale Cup. That was at about the same time as the new “patent totalisator” was introduced on course.


The racecourse is used as a facility to treat victims of the 1918 flu epidemic. The temporary racecourse “hospital” was short staffed and a local chemist, Robert Allely, was one of those in charge.


In May 1921, following disquiet about jockeys’ safety, and pay and conditions, a jockeys’ strike occurred at Avondale (on raceday) after a leading rider of the time, Tod Hewitt, was disciplined by the AJC Committee.


During both World Wars, units of the Army moved into the Avondale course, and trained and exercised there. Through the many occupations of the AJC facilities in the years of the Second World War, Avondale raced at Ellerslie.


May 1965 – an angry crowd of punters demonstrated their upset about a false start on a windy day when the starting gates failed to function correctly. Only a few of the riders had heard the siren, and a large portion of the crowd had not heard the starter signal a false start. They protested vehementlyfor some time after the race. The judicial committee upheld the starters decision to declare a false start.


April 1987 sees the first night racing meeting at Avondale. Installation of lighting and related infrastructure costs about $8 million.


Since 1952 the Club has charged Auckland City Council a token rental for the use of ten playing fields on the course. In 1988 Avondale Jockey Club sets the rental on a commercial basis so the hire of the fields will cost tens of thousands of dollars.


In 1989 the Club sold surplus land in Wingate Street to the Housing Corporation for $600,000. At the Club’s 100th AGM of Members held on 17 October 1989, Eddie Doherty, President, said that on course attendance figures had increased substantially by having all mid-week fixtures as night meetings. The Club’s $5.4m debt to the Bank of New Zealand is subject to winding up proceedings by the bank in November 1989. The Club had tried to sell parcels of land to avoid financial collapse but did not succeed. The Racing Authority steps in to take over the Club’s governance and management with a Board of Control (comprising D McElroy, J Wells and T Green).


Hundreds of floodlights from the AJC night racing meetings are in a fire-sale by the Club for $130,000 in 1992.


In 1999 the NZ All Golds Cosmopolitan Club has a new home at the racecourse, signing a lease of the first floor of the Members Stand, after eighteen months in recess.


In the racing season 1999/2000, 1959 horses start at Avondale. The Club produces prize money of $1.52 million. In relative terms that season saw the AJC racing operation in very good health, with on-course betting at $2.95 million and off-course betting at $24.87 million.


In response to the AJC’s submission in 2008 on the possible closure of the track, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s chief executive Paul Bittar takes a hard-line. Bittar says the Club is expendable, justifying his opinion by stating management was underperforming and a sale of the asset would realise $60 million.


NZTR continues its look at its options to improve racing in Auckland – having suggested closure of Avondale so that Ellerslie and Pukekohe are the regional courses. A greenfield option is present too. “The Aucklander” reports (July 2009) that Avondale is saddle sore, saying that the racecourse has seen better days and the Club is under increasing pressure to close.


April 2015 saw the sale of a parcel of land (9,719 m2) not part of racing operations at the Western end of the track. The unimproved site had been subdivided from the main racecourse title in early 2014 and was marketed for 12 months.