THE J.S. LOVE ERA
In 1887, James Simpson (JS) Love was appointed club secretary, a position he was to hold with distinction for the next 38 years.
His role in putting Townsville racing firmly on the map went far beyondadministration matters however, for JS Love was instrumental in underpinning the North Queensland breeding industry, importing many top class sires from England including Kings Scholar and Chantemerle.
The era also encompassed a period of extensive improvements to the course and facilities despite the best counter-efforts of cyclones and global conflicts.
Unofficial records indicate that the original Cluden Park grandstand was blown away by Cyclone Sigma in 1896. It was rebuilt post-haste only to suffer a similar fate at the hands of Cyclone Leonta in 1903.
Once again the grandstand was immediately re-erected and it stands today, 100 years later, a magnificent National Heritage-listed building providing not only a superb race-viewing vantage point but also a nostalgic link between modern-day racing and those heady, halcyon days of yesteryear.
While the grandstand may have endured a chequered early career, the popularity of the club (and thoroughbred racing in general) continued to grow so rapidly that total prize money distributed in 1887 stood at 2000 pounds. During the mid 1890s, the main race carried a purse of 250 pounds while just 30 years later, in 1917, the six meetings held for the year boasted prize money of 2582 pounds.
The club’s annual report to its members that year stated that ‘a large amount of money was spent in prospecting for water’ with ‘a new site selected by the Government water diviners resulting in a fair supply of water being found on which a well was sunk and an engine erected thereon’.
Meanwhile, North Queensland racing’s premier sprint, the Cleveland Bay Handicap, was run for the first time in 1919 and won by Bushwind.
In 1922, the club spent 141 pounds on permanent improvements, including the starting board and the scratchings board while in 1923 an amount of 47 pounds in railage was refunded to connections of horses from Bowen, Charters Towers, Ayr and Ingham who supported Townsville meetings.
1924 was a big year for expenditure with 1614 pounds outlaid to erect the new stewards lookout stands, ladies lavatory, the mound in front of the grandstand along with major repairs to the grand stand and the totalisator building.
Races decided over distances of two and three miles were no longer in fashion and by 1919 the longest race contested at Cluden was the Townsville Cup of 10 furlongs, or around 2000 metres.
Race distances might have been reduced but racing continued to enjoy the boom times and by 1927 the TTC was staging 17 meetings a year with total prize money of 11,705 pounds on offer.
However, race distances all came alike for jockey Bill ‘Skinny’ Thomas at Cluden on Saturday, 29 June, 1929 when he rode the winners of the seven races on the card, a world record.
Included in his tally was the North Queensland Guineas (1 mile) winner Greengold (owned by HJ Atkinson) which started at 6-4 and carved out the trip in 1min 47secs.
Thomas’s other winners were Own King, Kingsman, Constant Boy, Pageacre, Northern King and Night Flame.
There was no skinny end of the prize for Skinny Thomas on that memorable day.