Race days were a highlight on the Light Pass calendar. They were held twice a year at at the Light Pass Racecourse. situated on Sporns’ paddock, on the corner of Light Pass & Willows roads.
The races began as a spontaneous event, with local lads pitting their horses against each other. They trained the horses along Stockwell road. Eventually, the Angaston Race Club took over the event and held the first picnic race meeting in 1927. Saplings were stuck in the ground to form the course at first, and later proper railings were constructed. Stalls were built to shelter the large number of horses taking part in the races.
On race days there was a carnival air with umbrellas to shade the ‘bookies’, who were given free admission. Various tents housed the food and drink stalls and, naturally, there was the usual bar. A special train ran from Adelaide to carry horses and spectators. They dismounted at the Plushs’ Corner siding and then walked to the racecourse.
The racecourse had several buildings, including a grandstand made of ‘steps’ for seating, but with no roof. One of the buildings was used as an office where officials kept records, ‘scratching’ of horses was made and change was handed out to the gatekeepers. Mr Percy Schick worked as a gatekeeper and collected his bag and change from this office. Percy worked at Sheards store in Angaston until lunch time, when he rode his bike down to the racecourse to take over on the gate. A printed programme was on sale at the gate as well as the admission tickets. There was also a Jockeys’ room for changing and weighing in. This room was also used by the stewards.
Schoolchildren at Light Pass School eagerly watched the passing parade of cars taking visitors to the races. A spoon drain across the road in front of the school caused much merriment for scholars as an unsuspecting driver hit the drain full pelt and sent ladies’ hats and picnic baskets flying!
About 1956 the race meetings were moved to the Gawler racecourse. The Light Pass racecourse reverted to a paddock where sheep grazed once more. In recent years a substantial vineyard has been established on the property.
Helen Beck (nee Sporn) recalls, as a small child, “standing on a
ledge in my brother Chris’s bedroom watching the horses and jockeys racing in the distance. We also marveled at the traffic jam down Light Pass road after the event. Next day we would go to the race course and collect threepences and sixpences dropped by the punters, especially around the grandstand!!!”
(from Memories of colour, excitement and “wealth” by a 4 year old Light Passian, in Light Pass Revisited pp50 ).
Enjoy listening to Tom Reuther’s memories of the Light Pass races: