Singapore Turf Club

The Singapore Turf Club (STC), renowned for its horse-racing, is the oldest existing club in Singapore. It was founded by Scottish merchant William Henry Macleod Read and began as the Singapore Sporting Club on 4 October 1842. 

The grandstand and track were built in less than five months on swampy land in what is today Farrer Park. The first race meeting was held on 23 February and 25 February 1843 to mark the 24th anniversary of the founding of Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles. W. H. M. Read himself won the first Derby, called the Singapore Cup, taking home the prize money of $150. The race course was also used for significant events like the Centenary Celebrations of Singapore's founding in February 1919 and the flight of the first plane over Singapore in March 1911.

In 1840s, the sport was wholly amateur, with owners training and riding their own ponies. Burmese and Chinese ponies were used before the Australian griffins were brought in for the first time in the 1880s. The sale of Australian horses took place in Commercial Square, now known as Raffles Place until 1886 when the venue was changed to Abrams Horse Repository in Coleman Street. The increasing popularity of racing at the turn of the century attracted a larger audience and led to revamped facilities like new stables and a larger grandstand in 1910.

Other activities
On non-racing days, the grounds became grazing land for sheep from Belilios Road and Kerbau Lane and served as a nine-hole golf course. An 1878 plan indicated projections for a 400 yard rifle range at the course but the artillery range that was finally built at Target Road was closed in 1922 when housing developed around it.

Bukit Timah Turf Club
In 1924, the Singapore Turf Club (STC) got its name to reflect its racing activities. As the racing fever caught on, the facilities at Farrer Park had become inadequate. So, in 1927, the STC sold Farrer Park to the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) and purchased part of a Bukit Timah rubber estate. The new course at Bukit Timah was opened on 15 April 1933. Amazingly, it was only in 1960 that members of the public were allowed to attend races which, before then, were restricted to members and owners.

When STC refused to act as an agent for a new controlling body set up by the Government called the Singapore Totalisator Board, the Bukit Turf Club was registered instead to run races at Bukit Timah and the 4 digit lottery draws. However, in June 1994, after STC deregistered, the Singapore Turf Club got back its name to "identify the club with its country of origin". The Turf Club's location on prime land made it imminent that it would have to move on to a different location. In March 1993, it was announced that the 140 ha turf club site would be released for residential development after 1995.

Kranji course
Work began on the new 81.2 ha Kranji course in 1996. The S$5 million race course was opened on 4 March 2000 by the President of the Republic of Singapore, S. R. Nathan with the S$3 million SIA International Cup as its opening race. Saimee Jumaat riding Ouzo, was the only local jockey in the 14 horse field but made the opening ceremony sweeter by taking the cup and beating some of the best jockeys worldwide. The event was witnessed by a crowd of 28,000 and was the first horse race broadcast live in Singapore and worldwide.

Bonny Tan

Bukit Turf Club (1992). The Winning Connection: 150 years of racing in Singapore (pp. 9-11). Singapore: Author.
(Call no.: RSING 798.40095957 TAN)

Singapore Chronicles: A special commemorative history of Singapore (p. 165). (1995). Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine.
(Call no.: RSING q959.57 SIN)

Cool ride to the races. (1998, April 2). The Straits Times, p. 46. 

Murali, S. (2000, March 5). A punter' night all right. The Straits Times, p. 1.

Robert, G. (2000, March 5). Galloping to a dream start at Kranji. The Straits Times, p. 2.

Tay, C. K. (2000, March 5). Much horsing around at the races. The Straits Times, p. 54. 

Singapore Turf Club (2001). Historical Milestones. Retrieved December 18, 2001, from

Further Readings
Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmark, past and present (pp. 27-28). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM)

Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now (p. 197). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING q959.57 TYE)

Wright, A. W. (Ed.). (1989). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources (pp.167-168). Singapore: G. Brash, 1989.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 TWE) 

The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Sports organisations
Horse racing--Singapore
Organisations>>Associations>>Sports Associations
Sports, recreation and travel>>Equestrian sports

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