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The first race meeting was held at Ellerslie on 25 May 1874. At this time the racecourse was a considerable distance outside the city and it took Aucklanders up to several hours to get to the course by carriage. Many took the trains, though with the demand created by the event, as late as in 1910 they often had to travel in open cattle trucks because there were not enough normal coaches available for the demand of the extra services.
Champion racehorses to have raced at Ellerslie include Kindergarten, Balmerino, Bonecrusher, Uncle Remus, Japan Cup winner Horlicks, Il Tempo, Mr Tiz, Sunline (who was buried at the racecourse in 2009) and Jimmy Choux.
Ellerslie is home to two of New Zealand's major racing carnivals - the Summer Carnival and Auckland Cup Week. The Summer Carnival is run in the Christmas-New Year period with Boxing Day and New Year's Day formerly being home to the New Zealand Derby and Auckland Cup respectively, but these were moved to the new Auckland Cup Week in March 2006.
Stteplechasing at Ellerslie features the well-known "hill", a part of the course not used for flat racing. The major steeplechase at Ellerslie, the Great Northern Steeplechase, requires the horses to climb this hill 3 times in the 6400m event.
The following is a list of Group races which are run at Ellerslie Racecourse.
|R||Karaka Million||Restricted 2yo||Open||sw||1200||January|
|1||New Zealand Derby||3YO||Open||sw||2400||March|
|1||New Zealand Stakes||Open||Open||wfa||2000||March|
|2||Eight Carat Classic||3YO||Fillies||sw||1600||December|
|2||Great Northern Guineas||3YO||Open||sw||2000||December|
|2||City of Auckland Cup||Open||Open||hcp||2400||January|
|2||Rich Hill Mile||Open||Open||hcp||1600||January|
|3||Great Northern Challenge Stakes||Open||Open||wfa||1600||November|
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