Almanac Trots: Back to Wayville

Harness racing returned to Wayville in Adelaide; a memorable night for everyone. Pic: Peter Argent



Words by Peter Sweeney
Pic by Peter Argent


Quite a few people were celebrating birthdays when the Wayville trots were reborn at the Adelaide Showgrounds on Friday night.


Dorothy was the standout. She was 104, and, according to her 77-year-old son Russ, wasn’t going to miss it for the world.


“Come hell or highwater, Mum was going to be here. She’s a country girl from Tumby Bay, but when she heard they were having a trotting meeting here (Wayville), she said she was going. She told me to take her,” Russ said.


Almost as if on cue, Dorothy gave a wave to the jam-packed crowd via the video screen when master of ceremonies Paul Richards asked her a question.


“Do you remember coming here years ago Dorothy?” Richards said.


“No, I wasn’t a member here, I just used to come here,” she replied, bringing the house down with laughter.


There were smiles all round at Wayville, the pint-sized 510 metre circuit which hasn’t been home to the trots in Adelaide since April 7, 1973. A week later the sport moved to Globe Derby Park. But there is something about small inner suburban trotting tracks that people love.


And on Friday night they voted with their feet. Thousands came through the turnstiles. For some, it was all about memories of Wayville as kids. For most, it was a chance to see racing at Wayville for the first time.


There were the famous SA trotting families, names likes the Websters, the Justices, the Sugars, generations of people who could spell horse before they could speak. Greg Sugars won the Wayville Pacing Cup behind Heza Presidente, not long after his dad Ross and grand-dad Len had gone around the course in a motorcade of legends. Young Sugars waved his whip to the grandstand as excitedly as a youngster waving a bag of lollies around.


Victorian-based, Lance Justice did likewise on Hellfire Pass, showing how happy he was that he could put ‘Wayville winner’ on his impressive CV.


Arguably, the biggest cheer was for Kate Gath, a product of Port Pirie before moving to Victoria to expand her career. Gath steered inside runner Waikare Aviator from barrier, oops standing start, to box to land the Wayville Trotters Cup.


Wayville is too tiny for mobile barriers, so the eight-race card were all standing starts.


A $6000 bugle was blown to signal the horses to come onto the track. They did circle work on the green turf in the middle of the track before starting the race. A man with a bell rang it with a lap to go in the race. A girl with numbers on an easel board did the countdown as horses and humans steamed past her.


She was the only one doing the countdown. People wanted the night to last forever.


There were bookies here and there among the crowd, UBET machines the same, race descriptions from wherever they were pacing, racing or chasing, entertainment, eating vans and a shed display of trotting memorabilia dated decades and decades ago.


Racecaller Jim Jacques, who usually calls the Adelaide trots in front of a countable crowd at Globe Derby Park, suggested “we’ve seen enough tonight to believe this should be done again here.”


‘Ear, `ear.


Pic: Peter Argent


  1. Wayville and the Showgrounds in Melbourne – both jump to the front and stackemup. I bet on Wayville trots as a teenager but growing up in country SA I never went there for a race meeting. GDP was open before I became a paid up member of the desperates club.
    Stories of Gramel winning the square gaiters at Wayville off 120 behind (reckon they went back in increments of 12 yards handicaps back then – pre metric everything was dozens). Used to go the Royal Show each September and the bakers vans would run around the trotting track after the Grand Parade and throw fresh crusty rolls for the crowd to catch (wasn’t the pre OHS world grand?)
    Butterworths were bakers (appropriate name) and a top trotting family. I think they have left a legacy as breeders of Standardbreds.
    Great memories (if you leave out the punt).

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    They missed the opportunity to have sheaf tossing on in the centre of the arena at the same time.

    I blew my dough on the Holden Precision Driving Team in the third.

  3. Hey Swish, when I first went to the Maryborough Gift and saw the sheaf tossing I was surprised how entertaining it is.

    Professional sheaf tosser has to be one of the coolest occupations there is (if it was possible), although I’m not sure the bank would agree to a loan if you wrote that down. Then again, I reckon it is more reliable than writing ‘comedian’ on the loan application.

    Throw in the sheaf tossing with the trots and Wayville on a Friday evening, would be the greatest night of high energy sports action seen in Adelaide since it last hosted the Birdman Rally.

  4. Classic Swish!
    My dad tells me he had a great night out.

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