30 years of successful race meetings, 1901-30

PICNIC LUNCHEON: Mrs Dangar's Guests, 1929. Photos from The Sydney Mail (published by The Sydney Morning Herald)
PICNIC LUNCHEON: Mrs Dangar's Guests, 1929. Photos from The Sydney Mail (published by The Sydney Morning Herald)


CUP WINNER:  Mr and Mrs Osborne with their 1927 winner, Bronze Fuze.

CUP WINNER: Mr and Mrs Osborne with their 1927 winner, Bronze Fuze.

DOPED: A suffering and blinded Bronze Fuze after the 1929 Cup race.

DOPED: A suffering and blinded Bronze Fuze after the 1929 Cup race.

Part Two of a 3-part series

In 1901, the Bong Bong racecourse was moved to a large and pleasant grassy area between the Briars Inn and the Wingecarribee River (now the Bong Bong Common), adjacent to the Moss Vale-Bowral Road.

This remained the site for the increasingly popular annual two-day event until about 1911.

Then the Bong Bong Picnic Race meeting was moved to Normans Paddock, known as Old Meadows at Burradoo. This was a section of land on the western side of the Bowral-Moss Vale Road, just near the Eridge Park Road turnoff. This land featured a beautiful spread of trees that provided shade for the picnic lawns.

The original Race Club functioned as a club until 1921 when it was formed into a company, known as the Bong Bong Picnic Race Club, which then bought the racecourse grounds.

That year, Mr H.L. Austin’s Purser won at Bong Bong and later won the Caulfield Cup.

In 1924, the Sydney Mail reported that many of the visitors to the Picnic Race meeting later attended Moss Vale Golf Club’s ball on the Thursday night, and on Friday night the Bong Bong Club’s ball was a brilliant finale to the festivities.

The Sydney Mail gave a glowing report in 1927: “There are altogether too few picnic race meetings in Australia. Bong Bong is one of the best. Seldom has the racecourse looked better. The recent rain had imparted a rich verdure to grass and trees, which formed a picturesque background for the pretty and varied dressing of the ladies.”

That year, Mr H.C. Osborne’s Bronze Fuze, trained by Warwick Farm-based Norman Dewsbury, won the Bong Bong Cup by a head from Bequest in a thrilling race to the finish.

TWO YEARS LATER, the doping of Bronze Fuze, favourite for the 1929 Bong Bong Cup, marred what should have gone down as one of the Club’s most successful meetings.

The Sydney Mail of January 23 reported that visitors from all parts of NSW enjoyed the 39th annual meeting and the racing was exceptionally keen, although some of the fields were on the small side.

Consternation was caused when it became known that the favourite for the principal race, Bronze Fuze, was “doped” by some unknown person before the race.

When the horse left the barrier it was seen that something was wrong, although he responded for a time to his rider’s coaxing. But as the horse’s suffering was evident, his rider allowed him to slow up and he ran home four lengths behind the winner, Anvil.

When the start was given, Bronze Fuze had first of all attempted to run off into the bush. After passing the finishing post he could not be pulled up until he had run among trees half a mile away, where he was dismounted and led back by his rider.

It was then seen what a pitiful condition he was in. The pupils of his eyes were dilated, his tongue was dry and he appeared totally blind. It was later established that he had been poisoned with belladonna, the active ingredient of which, atropine, is similar to what oculists drop into the eyes of a patient suffering from defective eyesight in order to see at the back of the eye, and this has the effect of temporarily blinding the patient.

AS TO THE CULPRITS, the Sydney Mail reported that the doping was most likely in the interests of a gang who had backed Anvil off the course and, as starting-price betting is illegal, it was not likely that any off-course merchant would come forward saying he had been victimised. One thing was certain: the bookmakers operating on the course were not big winners over Bronze Fuze’s defeat, only one of them showing a profit of £200 on the race.

A chauffeur told the Stipendiary Steward that he saw a young man slip some crystals into Bronze Fuze’s drinking water before the race, but was unable to identify that man.

The doping of Bronze Fuze almost put a finish to the grand galloper that, but seven days before, had won the Cup at the Tirranna Picnic Race Club meeting near Goulburn.

It also heralded the end of the original Bong Bong Club that would only hold one more meeting.

  • Concludes next week

This article is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical and Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Contribution of information and old photographs welcome. Email bdhsarchives@acenet.com.au; call 4872 2169. Website: berrimadistricthistoricalsociety.org.au