History of the Royal Sabah Turf Club
The Royal Sabah Turf Club held its first organized Race Meeting in 1908. It was then known as the Jesselton Turf Club and continued throughout the First World War until the depression of the 1930’s.
Due to the interest in Horse Racing and to keep the sport alive, the British North Borneo Herald reported ‘Blenheim’ had won the English Derby at Epsom, watched by King George V and the Royal family. As Borneo was then ruled by the British Government Officers, Europeans and Asians formed the Jesselton Gymkhana Club, and held Amateur Races and Gymkhana Meetings two to three times a year.
The Spring Race Meeting of the 15th March 1930 held 9 races for ‘native’ bred Ponies, that raced over distances of 4 furlongs to 1 mile (800 metres to 1600 metres), carrying weights from 7 stone to 10 stone (43kgs to 64kgs). The Totalisator showed a healthy profit of 750 pounds for the Meeting, placing the Club in a strong financial position.
The Spring Meeting of the 12th April 1941 occurred during a long drought! During the War Years up until the Japanese Occupation, the Races were run over 3, 4, 5 and 6 furlongs (600, 800, 1000 and 1200 metres). With good Totalisator takings at this Meeting 1,000 pounds was donated to the War Relief Fund.
In 1946 and after the Second World War, with the growth of the Population the interest in Horse Racing was renewed, and became very popular amongst the people. The Club was then known as the North Borneo Turf Club. It was later to be renamed in 1950 the Royal Sabah Turf Club as we know it today.
It is understood the Malaysian Prime Minister at that time, Tunku Abdul Rahman was a very keen sportsman, and had a passion for Horse Racing – the ‘Sport of Kings’ Tunku Abdul Rahman was known to visit the Races in Sabah, and from a reliable source was very ‘lucky’. It has been mentioned that in early March,1965 during the visit of HRH Duke of Edinburgh and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) , the North Borneo Turf Club was renamed The Royal Sabah Turf Club.
In November 1952, a new Grandstand was built to accommodate new Full Members and Ordinary Members, and Annual Membership Fees then applied. The North Borneo News regularly placed a full page Advertisement advertising the next race meeting.
Racing was confined to Borneo Ponies up to 14 hands. The reasoning behind this was to increase the local Pony population. However the Government was instrumental in the importation of the Australian Whaler Stallions to improve the local breed. The transformation that has taken place over the years since the Club was reformed is proof of how popular Pony Racing is held amongst all the communities in Sabah. Today races are held every weekend and Ponies of mixed breeds, and even Thoroughbred horses are handicapped to participate in races over 1000M, 1100M, 1600M and 1800M.