Homebush Racecourse

By Cathy Jones

Further information:  State Library of NSW holds illustrations and rare racing guide from Homebush Racecourse.

The first Sydney Racecourse was located at Homebush.  Homebush Racecourse operated from 1841 to 1859, when it then moved to Randwick.

The Homebush Racecourse was located on part of William Wentworth’s estate, which he inherited from his father, the original grantee D’Arcy Wentworth. D’Arcy Wentworth [1762? – 1827] arrived with the Second Fleet in 1790 as ship’s surgeon on the Neptune. After Macquarie became governor, Wentworth was made principal surgeon and chief magistrate in the colony. He also received a grant of 920 acres at the head of the present Homebush Bay, located between Powell’s and Haslam’s Creek.

Wentworth called his grant ‘Home Bush’, his home in the bush. This name was later adopted in the 1878 subdivision of the Underwood Estate called the ‘Village of Homebush’, which is actually located south of the railway line and was not part of the original Wentworth grant. Wentworth developed an interest in horsebreeding, importing horses from India and South Africa. Wentworth’s son, William Charles Wentworth [of one of the three Blue Mountains explorers] shared his father’s interest in turf racing that continued after D’Arcy Wentworth’s death in 1827. Therefore, in 1841 William Wentworth agreed to lay down a course, fence enclosures and build a stand for a new racecourse on the cleared land of the Homebush Estate.

The establishment of the Homebush railway station in 1855 provided access to the racecourse. A special ferry was established for racedays along the Sydney to Parramatta route. The services were advertised as: ‘THE STEAM PACK RAPID….will start from the Commercial Wharf at Ten O’Clock precisely on each day of the Races – land Passengers at the Course and return with them to Sydney each night. FARES – four shillings each.’ The river transport depended on the tides for Homebush Bay, which were fringed with mangroves along the shore and mud flats around the Powell Creek entrance prevented a wharf or jetty being built. At low tide ferry boats had to stop at a distance from the shore and racegoers had to wade through a stretch of mud to get to the racecourse. The racecourse operated until 1859 and in 1860 moved to Randwick. The old course continued as a training ground and later became a market garden. Some old maps of Homebush include reference to the Chinese Market Gardens at this site.

Written by Cathy Jones 2005


  1. Of Sydney Racecourses the first was Hyde Park from 1810 into the 1820’s. Becoming impractical a new course was opened on South Head Road. This also went by the wayside. Yet another in 1825 was opened on Grose Farm (Sydney Uni site). In 1833 a new site was granted at what we now call Randwick yet the track was sandy and soon abandoned. Homebush then became the preferred track and from 1841 to 1860 was the most loved of all previous Sydney Courses. Homebush closed in 1860 when the old Sandy Track (Randwick) was re-vamped. YET Homebush had a revival in the mid 1860’s and many more important races held including a 3 day event attended by huge crowds and Prince Alfrred (Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s son). The last real races at Homebush were in the mid 1870’s. After that and into the 1880’s reduced to athletics events and horse hack races. Homebush Course can’t claim being the first Racecourse. Yet it can claim being the most beautiful and the most loved of all Colonial Racecourses for so very long.
    One of many accreditations The Sun Sydney 25 oct 1930 page 7. Cheers, Dave


  2. Brilliant, thanks also for the clarification on the racecourse history of Sydney Dave. I would also like to add that I thought that Home Bush came from the earlier grant to Thomas Laycock, who named the site Laycocks Home Bush Farm, not from Wentworth. We are making the history of sydney fun over at Exploria.me – an app for interacting with local history. Would be great to get feedback! – Simon


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