Established over 100 years ago, the Auckland Trotting Club is one of the city's oldest and most enduring institutions. Here is a brief summary of the club's history, beginning back in the late 1800s and leading up to present day.
The Auckland Trotting Club was originally formed in 1890.
At this time, most of the horse racing action took place in Newmarket and Epsom.
The earliest racecourse competition was held on the Epsom property of the Potter family (who later became managers for the adjacent trambarns and the draught horses that pulled them - hence 'Potters Paddock' and 'Tramways Corner', two early names for Alexandra Park).
As the sport grew, the galloping code moved to race at 'Grahams Gardens' (the property that today hosts the Auckland Racing Club).
Under the shadow of Maungakiekie (the tree that stands alone), 'Potters Paddock' began to flourish. Those who pioneered the racing meetings here were mostly proprietors of hotels and hostelries, with a sprinkling of politicians, businessmen and wealthy farmers.
In the early 1900s the New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington was initiated, and Christchurch became the undisputed headquarters of trotting in New Zealand.
Thanks to the great service initially given the sport by the early A.T.C. presidents William Adams and John Rowe, and secretary C.F. Mark, , Auckland trotting steadily grew in stature and the Auckland Trotting Club came to challenge the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club for top-dog status.
The Auckland Trotting Club instituted its Great Northern Derby for three-year old pacers in 1916, and the Rowe Handicap for trotters in 1918.
The main public grandstand was erected in the 1920s.
In 1937 the Club established the Great Northern Trotting Stakes for 2 year olds. Other feature races have been added over the years, and these are contested on the eight 'Premier' race meetings held by the Club each year.
It has also hosted memorable Interdominion Championship carnivals in 1948, 1955, 1968, 1975, 1983, 1991, 1999 and 2005. The Interdominions are an annual series contested by some of the best trotters and pacers in Australasia.
Night trotting was introduced in 1958, and was an instant success. It continues to be the format for most of the racing at Alexandra Park.
More recently, the Club has focused on Friday nights as its signature race-night. Its goal is to race every Friday night.
Although the Club has a large population to draw on for its race meetings, it also faces intense competition from other forms of gaming that have emerged since the mid-1980s: lotto, casinos, gaming machines, sports betting and overseas racing. Accordingly it has shifted its focus from quantity to quality, and now seeks to provide a unique entertainment experience based around fine dining.
Alexandra Park is also home to the Thames, Manukau, Kumeu and Franklin Trotting clubs, in the sense that this is predominantly where they race in Auckland. Currently about 40% of the race meetings held at Alexandra Park are organised by these four 'tenant clubs'.
Ron Bisman for "Harness Heroes, 100 Years of The Auckland Trotting Club" & "A Salute To Trotting, A history of Harness Racing in New Zealand" in compiling this short history. Both by Moa Publications. Photographs with thanks from Fred Freeman.