The Darwin Turf Club was formed with a fanfare of trumpets in May 1955, with the stage being set for the running of the first Darwin Cup on Saturday October 20 1956.
Record post war stake money of $470 had been allocated by the Club for the six races. A field of four vied for the Cup worth $260 plus a trophy valued at $42. Because of the unfinished state of the track the Cup was run over 1200m. The first Darwin Cup winner at Fannie Bay was Satan’s Son, owned, trained and ridden by Peter McCracken. Satan’s Son, the only non thoroughbred to win the Darwin Cup, covered the 1200m in 126 seconds.
Since the first Darwin Cup in 1956 no Darwin Cup winner had had to survive a protest alleging interference. But there is always a first time and it happened in 1971 when Kentuckey Colonel’s jockey Peter Dempsey lodged a protest against Apian for Interference over the final 100 metres. The protest was dismissed by Stewards.
One of Australia’s great racecallers John Russell visited Darwin for the first time in 1972, the year Son of Cyrus won the Darwin Cup (now worth $4,000). It was fitting Russell was on hand to witness the win by a horse many claimed at that time, was the greatest horse to have raced in the Territory.
Heading into the 1980’s the Darwin Turf Club really started to kick things along. The introduction of the Triple Crown bonus, saw considerable financial reward up for grabs. Turf Club Chairman Ted Bailey, a long time stalwart of the sport in the Top End, as owner and punter pulled off a remarkable coup when Brinney stormed home first across the line in the 1989 Guineas, Derby and Winfield Darwin Cup, training Triple Crown glory.
The 1988 bicentennial Darwin Cup was the first $100,000 race staged in the Northern Territory, an amazing turnaround for the Club virtually decimated by Cyclone Tracy 15 years before.
Since the turn of the Century the Darwin Cup has become the biggest sporting event in the Northern Territory with over 20,000 people attending every year on Day 8. As one of only a few dirt tracks in operation on the provincial circuit, the picturesque racecourse in Fannie Bay is the venue which sees several illustrious racing names vie for over 1.95 million dollars in prize money and trophies over the month long event.
Standing alongside visitors will be thousands of locals who will proudly showcase the Territory with their unique style and world famous hospitality, that can only be experienced in the Top End.