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Horses have raced at Ellerslie since 1857 when Robert Graham hosted a race meeting on his property, on the site which is now Ellerslie Racecourse. The Auckland Racing club then purchased thirty-six hectares of land from Graham in 1872 on which the course is situated.
The first race meeting of the Auckland Racing Club 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.
A "platform" station, Ellerslie Racecourse Platform was opened in January 1874. Many went by train, although 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.
A publication compiled by E.G. Sutherland, held in Sir George Grey Special Collections called Auckland Cup history makes note of the importance of the aesthetic appeal of Ellerslie Racecourse.
"It seems worthy of mention that by making Ellerslie attractive the Auckland Racing Club has added to the popularity of the sport. Ellerslie’s attractive outlook has been partly responsible for bringing thousands of visiting racing patrons within its borders to witness the best class of thoroughbreds in action. It’s well laid out floral beds, ponds and large variety of choice trees and palms have drawn kudos from Royalty, Governors, Viceroys, tourists and visitors from all parts of the world."
Even Queen Elizabeth visited Ellerslie Racecourse during the royal visit in 1953/4.
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||1600||January|
|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|
- Heritage et AL: Auckland Cup and racing at Ellerslie
- "Auckland Affairs - Race Train Ructions". NZ Truth. 8 January 1910. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
- Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries
- 'Auckland Cup history: and Ellerslie’s great advancement as a racing centre under able administration'. Compiled by E.G. Sutherland. (1947)
- New Zealand History
- Papakura, N.Z : Kingseat Jubilee Editorial Committee (1981). Kingseat Hospital, 50 years, 1932-1982. Retrieved 5 January 2012.