Green Square’s colourful racing past

Victoria Park racecourse at Zetland in the 1940s showing horses racing

Victoria Park Racecourse was built on the former Waterloo swamp by Sir James Joynton Smith in 1908.

When Joynton Smith first explored the swamp he spotted bright goldfish reminding him of his childhood in Victoria Park, London – the racecourse found its name.

Victoria Park was advertised as “the first course in Australia to cater for ladies in the provision of retiring rooms”.

Smaller tracks meant punters could see the whole race while the finishes were tighter and more exciting to watch. Zetland Avenue is named after the training stable Zetland Lodge. Grandstand Parade lies next to the original home straight while Ascot Avenue is named after Botany’s Ascot Racecourse.

Victoria Park racecourse at Zetland in the 1950s. View showing the Nuffield production building and administrative building in full use. Image: City of Sydney Archives 033/0333309.

Victoria Park was also the site of Australia’s first plane flight. On December 9, 1909 Colin Defries flew 300 yards across the racecourse. When his hat blew off, he reached out to grab it and was forced to land. Defries Avenue is named after this event.

During the 1950s the racecourse was bought by British Motor Corporation and became the only plant in Australia to manufacture a complete vehicle.

Today the Victoria Park residential development has revitalised the area. A 3-storey totalisator building remains on the site housing the Green Square Customer Service Centre and Library.

Main image: Victoria Park racecourse at Zetland in the 1940s showing horses racing. City of Sydney Archives 033/033284.