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A Brief History of Penang Turf Club

There has been organised racing in Penang for 155 years, with the Penang Turf Club having been founded in 1864.

But the first ponies from England started to arrive in Penang (formerly known as Prince of Wales Island) as soon as Francis Light hoisted the Union Jack in 1786 at the Esplanade in honor of George, Prince of Wale, who later became King George IV.

The Club received a free land grant in Macalister Road for its course of seven furlongs and 81 3/4 yards. Here the first stands and buildings of wood and attap were put up in 1869 and a small annual meeting was started. Prizemoney was never more than $600 for the whole meeting then.

The racecourse became the venue for recreation for the English gentlemen and ladies as the sport was confined exclusively to the Europeans. Even then, the influence of the East was prevalent as can be seen in a trophy laced with Chinese dragons in 1878.

By 1898, Penang was holding two meetings a year, two days in January and two in July, known as the Spring and Autumn races. Prizemoney for the year totaled $5,950. Race days were usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays and were declared public holidays in the Straits Settlement of Penang.

The Penang Turf Club’s racetrack with the Parade Ring in the foreground in 1980.

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