Horses In Demand in Kimberley

Horse racing became an extremely popular sport among diggers at the diamond fields in the 1870s. The first race at the fields was run at Pniel in January, 1871, and it was such a success that a group of sporting diggers banded together to form the Diamond Fields Turf Club, writes Brian Roberts in Kimberley, Turbulent City.   A course was laid out near Du Toitspan and Bultfontein mines and a gala meeting, lasting three days, was widely advertised.  Substantial cash prizes were offered.   Karoo horses were in demand. Their quality and stamina were widely known. Turf Club officials bought horses from breeders in Beaufort West, Cradock and Colesberg. Exciting as the event was, it was remembered not so much for the races, as for the side shows it attracted. Crooks of all kinds converged at the course.  Among them were card sharps, slight-of-hand tricksters and “three-card-monty-men”.  Small time chisellers had a field day and ladies of the night did a brisk day-time trade. After these races, diggers found it safer to gamble in the billiards saloons.


© Rose’s Roundup, May 2011 (No 208)

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