Ocean Grove Races

Click to view larger imageThe Ocean Grove Races were unique in Australia ... a fully fledged horse racing meeting, on a beach, complete with bookmakers, race books and entertainment plus.

The Cup meeting was run annually, starting in 1995 with the last race in 2001.  Photos, race books and history - it's all here.

The Ocean Grove Races were part of a four-day festival in Ocean Grove.  It began as the Collendina Cup Carvinal (1st year), then became the Ocean Grove Cup Carnival (2nd and 3rd years) before becoming the Schweppes Ocean Grove Cup Carnival in 1998.

The four-day festival was a real family affair involving community groups and schools with events for all ages.  Events included: a Teddy Bear's Picnic, Pioneers Tea Party, sausage sizzles, basketball clinics, and fun runs.

The 'glamour' event was the Cup Ball which was held at the Barwon Heads Hotel or the luxurious Newington (House).  There were cocktail parties and Calcutta Auctions complete with the 'Ball Bus' to get everyone home safely.  They even had a 'Cupline' for bookings.

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How did it really start?

The first official race book in 1995 tells the full story:

The Collendina Cup - a tradition continues (by Denis Walters).

in 1985 at Collendina, it was decided to have a match race between two horses - Star Wilkes, ridden by Chris Young, and Reigate Lass, ridden by Denis Walters.  A group of twenty people (appropriately attired) attended the inaugural "Collendina Cup" on the beach in front of the Collendina Car Park.  During the barbecue that followed, all agreed it had been a fun day and should become an annual event.  Over the next 6 years, cup contenders and spectators grew in number and as people returned each year, bringing their friends, it appeared that the concept of beach racing and the good times had by all during the day's festivities, ensured the continued success of the Collendina Cup.

From 1986 to 1989 the cup was transferred to the beach at Black Rock, after which the race was returned to Collendina in 1991.  In this race the closest of finishes was fought out as 'Max and Whiskey' went stride for stride over the last 200 metres.

The Collendina Cup has always been a day where everybody could experience the thrill of beach racing and join in the fun of foot races and other events.  Over the years, fancy dress has been the order of the day and some memorable characters have made an appearance.  The swelling attendance and beach restrictions were two of the factors that brought about the temporary lapse in the staging of the Collendina Cup.  It was often discussed - how unique it would be to run the day for charity and last year Apex decided to take up the challenge and organise the event.

From humble beginnings, the Cup has gone from strength to strength and this year will be bigger than ever.  In the years to come it could rival similar sporting events overseas - attracting people from far and wide to join in the days of 'fun and excitement'.

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The National Anthem

Like any 'major' sporting event, the National Anthem was sung for the start of race day.

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The Course

From 1995 to 2000 the races were held at RAAFs beach.

In 2001 they were moved to the Main Beach.

Starting line, finishing line, and lots of spectators  The discovery   Not only did Alan give permission, but he spurred me on to discover more.


Starting line, finishing line, and lots of spectators

Looking from the Main surf beach towards the Barwon River, the beach was cordonned off before the starting line (and mustering area), through to the marquees and crowds near the finish line, to the end of the official race day area.

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The final bend before the straight:

Any idea how many furlongs from the last bend to the finishing line?  It didn't really matter!  The 'official' track length was 1000 metres.

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One of the region's most popular events, the Ocean Grove Cup Carnival (by Denis Craven).

From the Geelong Advertiser 19 Feb 2000:

The tide is all-important when organisers select the day for the beach races.  Last year (1999) a strong southerly wind never let the tide go out properly [ ... ] and there were anxious moments that the final race could be washed out.

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2000 Photo finish

Results from The Echo 1 March 2000

In similar circumstances to last year's Cup, the rapid incoming tide sped up proceedings.  The results was again an exciting race and a close finish, with the Woodend-trained Smart Remark, ridden by Sunbury's Gary Airs, finishing first.  Second was last year's winner Bobbie, ridden by Nathalie Mulder, with Good Lookin' third.

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The winner

Gary Airs holds the Ocean Grove Cup beside his winning ride, Smart Remark.

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The media scrum

It could have been the finish of the Melbourne cup - definitely no shortage of media interest in the winner!

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2001 winner

The winner of the 2001 Ocean Grove Cup was Sandpiper ridden by Melinda Johnson-Rooney.

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1999 and 2000 - issues with the tide.

Both the 1999 and 2000 Ocean Grove Cups had to contend with the incoming tide.

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2001 MC of the Ocean Grove Cup

Robert DiPierdomenico - better known as 'Dipper' was the Master of Ceremonies at the 2001 Ocean Grove Cup.

He was also in charge of the 'non horse' races involving the kids.

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2001 - one of the novelty races

The Esky race was very popular.

Contestants had to run to their Eskys, fill them up with cans of Schweppes Solo and then race to the finishing line.

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Ocean Grove Cup Race Books

We're so fortunate that the Race Books for all seven official Cup Carnivals have been preserved as part of the Ocean Grove Cup archives.

The archives also include many photographs, newspaper clippings and three tee-shirts!

The Race Books have been scanned and been made fully text searchable.  Before long they will also be fully indexed and added to the Geelong & District Database.

You can download the Race Books below.


Chronology of Ocean Grove Cup
1st 1995 Collendina Cup Carnival Sunday February 26 RAAFs Beach
2nd 1996 Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday March 17 RAAFs Beach
3rd 1997 Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday February 16 RAAFs Beach
4th 1998 Schweppes Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday February 22 RAAFs Beach
5th 1999 Schweppes Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday February 7 RAAFs Beach
6th 2000 Schweppes Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday February 27 RAAFs Beach
7th 2001 Schweppes Ocean Grove Cup Carnival Sunday February 18 Main Beach

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 October 2016 21:59