In a way, Turffontein Racecourse is one Johannesburg’s hidden gems. Tucked away, south of the CBD this venue has been the scene of many fascinating duels between South Africa’s top thoroughbred racehorses.
Turffontein Racecourse, one of the premier racing venues in the country, owes most of its history to the early days of Johannesburg’s gold rush and the popularity of the sport among a new elite as well as settlers who moved here with the promise of new wealth.
The original racecourse had it’s finish line situated near the intersection of Eloff and Commisioner Streets in the CBD before it was moved to its current location in Turf Club Street. A burgeoning skyline provides a brilliant backdrop as the action plays itself out on the track.
On average, there will be about 70 racemeetings at the Johannesburg track in a season. Turffontein Racecourse boasts two tracks used for racing with the Standside track, which is 2600m all the way round used for most of the marquee races. It also boasts a straight course of 1160m and plays host to some of the biggest sprint races on the calendar.
The tighter, slightly shorter Inside Track was introduced a few years ago and is used as an alternative when the Standside Track needs time to recover.
Some of the major races that take place at Turffontein Racecourse include the annual Gauteng SANSUI Summer Cup, Champions Day, as well as the annual Triple Crown series which helps identify the champion three-year-olds of each year.
The Emperors Palace Charity Mile, the International Jockeys’ Challenge as well as the Princess Charlene of Monaco Empress Club Stakes are some of the other popular racedays in Johannesburg.
It’s a venue that has also played host to titans of industry as well as the who’s who of the celebrity and sporting worlds
Turffontein Racecourse is also regarded as one of the major training centres in South Africa and every morning roughly 700 horses will make use of the facilities as preparation for upcoming races. It’s a process that happens long before Johannesburg’s highways are filled up with traffic.
In days gone by, trainers had their horses stabled in surrounding areas and in the mornings their charges could be seen walking down the main roads as they made their way to the tracks for exercise. Much of the architecture in the neighbouring suburbs still reflects this.
In July, 2016 Turffontein Racecourse was named as a heritage site by the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation. As such, a Blue Plaque is proudly displayed outside the main entrance which recognises the venues part in the history of Johannesburg.
Given it’s location, Turffontein Racecourse is easily accessible from the South of Johannesburg and also links up with many of the highways that come from the North as well as to the airport.
A current project by the local government has identified the areas surrounding Turffontein Racecourse for upgrades and renovations as the city seeks to restore itself to its former glory.