Bukit Timah Turf Club

The Singapore Sporting Club, former body of the current Singapore Turf Club (STC), was formed as early as 1842 by Scottish businessman and the chairman of Singapore Chamber of Commerce William Henry Macleod Read (1819 – 1907).

Singapore’s first horse racing track and stand was built in present-day Farrer Park, and the first race took place in 1843. Being an amateur sport during that era, the ground were shared for sheep-rearing and golfing on non-racing days.

The club purchased part of Bukit Timah Rubber Estate in 1927 and the new racecourse at Bukit Timah, Singapore’s second, was completed six years later. However, the racing activities was soon disrupted by World War II, and it was not until 1960 before races were opened to the public. Horse racing proved to be so popular that two giant grandstands were built to accommodate 50,000 spectators.

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip paid a visit to the Bukit Timah racecourse in 1972, and the Turf Club honoured her visit by establishing a Queen Elizabeth II Cup in that year.

Bukit Timah Saddle Club was set up in 1951 at nearby Fairways Drive, allowing retired race horses to be re-trained in other skills such as show jumping or dressage (also known as “horse ballet”).

Today, remnants of the former race course can still be found, such as the former designs of street name signs and speed limit signs.

Due to the prime location of Bukit Timah, the authority decided to relocate the racing premises to Kranji. By 2000, the new Kranji course, after four years of work and at a cost of S$5 million, was finally opened to facilitate professional horse racing.

Part of the facilities and stables at the Bukit Timah site were demolished after the relocation, as the area was being redeveloped into a food and sale hub known as Turf City. Some of the large fields are also leased out to other sports such as golf, soccer and rugby.

Published: 16 July 2011

54 Responses to Bukit Timah Turf Club

  1. Shirley Dressler says:

    Fantastic memories of an old Singapore I remember, from my childhood days where I was born in 1935 Many thanks.

  2. My father LJC Bailey was secretary to the Singapore Turf Club and the Straits Racing Association from 1948 -1961 and I together with my family lived on the Race Course at Bukit Timah. He was put in charge of the rehabilitation of the Race Course after the war, having been a POW and worked there as a labourer during the war.
    I am planning to visit in January 2014 and wonder whether anyone has any suggestions as I would like to visit my old home and anyone interested or with memories. My name is Mark Bailey.

    • Sue Maycock says:

      My mother arranged flowers sometimes at the race course between 1958 and 1960. Her name was Joan Macksey and I think it was arranged through Robinsons the big departmental store at that time.

    • Joanna Beardsworth says:

      Hi Mark, my father took over from your dad as secretary, he was Derek Brown. Did you go back in 2014?
      Joanna Beardsworth (nee Brown)

      • Mark Bailey says:

        Hi Joanna, yes I did and found the two houses we lived in. Where do you live now?
        Mark Bailey

      • Joanna Beardsworth (nee Brown) says:

        Hi Mark, I am now living in U.K. in Somerset. Lovely part of the world. Funnily enough one of my daughters is currently living and working in Singapore. Which part of the world are you living in?

      • Mark Bailey says:

        I live in Norfolk, not too far from the NW coast. Funnily enough I am in Cape Town at the moment visiting my sister. If you are in East Anglia it would be good to meet up. Mark

  3. DLT says:

    Very much forgotten. There used to be a used car scene and even that is gone now (The grandstands where you can see in the first picture used to have steamboat restaurants a long time ago when i was a kid) Whatever happened to the RC scene there?
    All that’s left are just a Giant hypermarket and some shops and a kopitiam. that’s all

    A sad ending to a rich historic area. I fear it’s going to follow what happened to Ama Keng

    • Mark Bailey says:

      As indicated I am heading out that way. Is there any likelihood of being able to recognise the area immediately around the racecourse where my parents had their house, which I believe was called “The Secretary’s House” ? Or any way to contact the Secretary of the current racing organisation?

  4. Ying Her says:

    Now renamed to The Grandstand. -.-

  5. mardiana kassim says:

    Beautiful childhood memories.ex resident ..stayed at d worker’s quaters.my
    father was a driver for Mr.Bailey n Mr.Brown.

    • Mark Bailey says:

      Mardiana, I am not sure how to say this. My name is Mark Bailey; I am the son of the man who was privileged to have your father as a driver. Indeed I and my siblings were often driven to school by him. I remember you and your brother, Amin?, very well and we had a wonderful childhood together.! I think it quite likely that you were my first girlfriend! I have pictures of us at the Secretaries house, where we all lived, playing together, when we were children..Wonderful days!
      I have just been out to Singapore and I found the house. Sadly the whole racecourse has been developed and lost the magic that we were privileged to enjoy.
      I would very much like to contact you privately and perhaps go out to Singapore to catch up with you and your family. Perhaps the adjudicators may be able to facilitate this. Can’t wait to catch up with you !!!!!!!!!!! .

  6. Mardiana says:

    Hi Mark…,yes that’s my father and Amin is my eldest brother but about the first girlfriend,I think that’s my eldest sister.Anyway I’m too young to be your first girlfriend…hahaha…here are her email address( mossham53@gmail.com) and mine (mardiana@live.com.sg).Hope to hear from you soon.Before I forget…she did mention about your sister..Suzanna…byeeee

  7. Musriah Kassim says:

    Hello Mark, wow..!!!!!!!!!!!! Im lost for words, speechless to be exact, my younger sister, Mardiana,told me abt you this morning, Im Musriah, the oldest daughter of your driver, my dad Kassim.Yes..we had a wonderful childhood together..Mardiana is my younger sister residing in Singapore, but I live in Ipoh, Malaysia, with my husband and three grown up children..my Email address is mossham53@gmail.com would be lovely to be in contact with you. Its been a decade uhh..!!

  8. Alan Godwin says:

    I used to live at No.2 Holland Grove Drive, from around 1959 to 1989, when my father sold the house. As children, my brother Billy and I would ride our bikes in the early hours to the Turf Club and take horses out from the Saddle Club’s stables for hacks around the property. It was a lovely, semi wild area. Sadly our interest in horses waned, and we stopped riding not long afterwards, but I remember those outings with fondness. My father’s good friend, Cyril Bridge, was a keen horseman and rode often at the Turf Club.

    • Joanna Beardsworth says:

      We’re you and Billy at Tanglin school? I am sure I remember your names. We lived on the Turf Club. 1957 to late 70’s
      Joanna (Brown)

      • Alan Godwin says:

        Yes Joanna, we were at Tanglin School up to 1967. I can’t recall your name, but it was a long time ago. Then we went to boarding school in Perth, W Australia, along with many others at the time since there were no suitable schools in S’pore until the International School opened. Then we went there (now called United World College of SE Asia) in 1974. When did you leave Tanglin?

      • Mark Bailey says:

        Somewhat belated but I think that it was your father who became Secretary to the Turf Club when my father retired to England

  9. Mark Bailey says:

    See the correspondence above. My father was involved in rebuilding the Racecourse after the war having been a POW in Changhi and indeed on the racecourse. We lived in a house on the course which still exists, as I saw it in January this year, and he was the Secretary to the Turf Club, almost certainly when you were riding there.
    Incidentally, Musria, Amin and Mardiana I intend to come out and see you all when I can find time.

    • Joanna Beardsworth (nee Brown) says:

      Hi Mark, yes that’s correct my father Derek Brown, took over from your dad when your father retired. I was born in ’57 don’t really remember your parents.

  10. Larry says:

    I remember going to an outdoors nightclub there in 2009, anyone know if it’s still there and what the name is/was??

  11. Chris Chadwick says:

    I was a member of STC from ,”63_65 and had a share in a facing pony there. The organiser was a nice American lady .We had a great BBQ

  12. Alan Godwin says:

    Mark, my mother was also a POW at Changi, and later at the town site camp, can’t remember what it was called…

    • Sue Maycock says:

      Would it have been at Sime Road by any chance? That’s where they moved the women from Changi in order to make more room for male POW’s.

      • Alan Godwin says:

        Sue, I believe you’re right. The girl POWs secretly produced a patchwork quilt which now hangs in the Imperial War Museum in London. My mother and her sister both have their names on it. Apparently if they’d been caught it would have led to severe punishment. The quilt was written about in the Daily Mail a few years back after it appeared in an exhibition of quilts in the Tate museum.

    • Joanna Beardsworth says:

      Re your Tanglin School question….. I left in ’67 to go to UK (to boarding school when 10yrs of age) I think I was in the same year as Billy. You (if younger than Billy) might have been my brother Justin’s year? I could have it wrong but something in my failing memory about a Billy in my class who was quite naughty!?

      • Alan Godwin says:

        Your memory is less faded than mine, I think. So we left in the same year. I was born in 1958 so probably in the same year as your brother. The UK seemed such a long way away in those days, so dad opted for Perth so that we could return each holiday. I’m now living in Devon – where are you? Yes, Billy was very naughty in those days, but he became very serious and studious, eventually gaining a DPhil in Philosophy from Oxford and is now a barrister. I eventually left UWCSEA to go to boarding school in England. Have you been back to S’pore recently? I went last year for the first time in 30 yrs and it was nearly unrecognisable.

      • Joanna Beardsworth says:

        Somerset! Right in the middle, Between Castle Cary/Somerton. Only been here a year, back from HK where my husband did a 4 year stint. Loving it here although it’s a little wet…….

  13. Mark Bailey says:

    Alan apologies for the delay. I hope to come out again sometime and would welcome the chance to meet up. The same applies to Musriah, Amin and Mardiana.

    • Alan Godwin says:

      I don’t live there any more Mark. I’m in Devon now. Did you make it to S’pore? I went last year and was rather startled at how much has changed.

      • Mark Bailey says:

        A very late response; I did make it there and was sad to see the state of the old racecourse, but did find the two houses that we (Bailey’s and Browns).lived in.

  14. ridhwan noraimi says:

    i use to stayin the quaters there as my father and gramps workas a syce at the club, the kampong spirit is the most enjoyful moment of my life, i stay right nxt to the new stable which is nearer to the race course, exactly down the hill, there’s a canteen and the big monsoon drain where i always go fishing at… especially when it rains thats when all the fishes gets stucked and we go down picking it up just like apples fallen on the ground… the best memories in my life was there… ouh! theres this two brothers who’s called rikishi, they were so big and fat just like rikishi most kids are scared of them. hahaha

  15. Kaiser says:

    I go near here for taekwondo.

  16. Justin Tan says:

    My school used to conduct its annual x-country there, and I’m relieved to say the place still looks much like it used to. Redevelopment has left most of the infrastructure intact, and revenue from tuition centres, childcare facilities, sports clubs, novelty stores etc. are hopefully satisfying the owners of today’s ‘Grandstand’ (enough, at least, for them not to contemplate any further meddling). It is a monumental hulk and a remarkable, remarkable place to explore, especially in light of how much floor space has been allowed to simply idle. I dearly hope no developer gets any ideas about it.

  17. Alan Godwin says:

    When I went to S’pore in 2015 I found my old house in Holland Grove Drive. It, and our immediate neighbour’s house, still survive, but literally ALL the other old bungalows and the newer housing estate which was build later have been demolished and rather smart (but very packed together) houses have been built in their place. When my father first bought the house he was teased about moving to the “ulu” (jungle) because our house was practically in the countryside, which still existed then, with kampongs and semi-wild land all around us.
    It’s such a shame S’pore has destroyed so much of its heritage, but I suppose land is at a premium there. At least they saved a few of the old shophouses in Orchard Rd and elsewhere before they were all gone. Now they’re busy tourist areas. I found it quite strange to revisit and not recognise most of what I saw.
    One of the oddest things is the way the sea is no longer where it was, especially at Collyer Quay and near the Padang.

  18. Mark Bailey says:

    Hi Everyone,
    Further to my post in 2013 (time flies!) I did find my parental home on the old race course.
    I am heading back that way at the end of February 2019 and wondering if there have been any developments ?

    • Joanna Beardsworth says:

      Hi Mark, my sister Caroline visited last week! Your house is rented out and ours is being decorated for rental currently. So at least still standing……..

  19. Jane Iyer says:

    Dear all, my name is Jane Iyer & I run a small specialist tour company here in Singapore specialising in history & heritage; my website is http://www.janestours.sg if you’d like to know more.
    Found this blog/discussion as I’ve had an enquiry from a Josephine Johnson relating to her great uncle, Keith Johnson, who was Superintendent of the Marine Police when Singapore fell in the 1940’s & also Secretary of the Singapore Turf Club and “apparently lived in a house at the racecourse”. It must be the same house you guys have mentioned and I wonder if you could please tell me its address.
    Many thanks, Jane PS in addition to living here for nearly 20 years as an adult I also lived in this part of the world (JB to be precise) as a kid from Feb 1963 to 1967 & then again 1970-72 – in a UK boarding school by then so just out for holidays.

  20. Mark Bailey says:

    Hello Jane, I will be in Singapore on 10 &16 March this year. Wondering if you have anything doing on those dates. My father was secretary to the Bukit Timah Turf Club in the late 60’s. Regards Mark Bailey

    • Jane Iyer says:

      Hello Mark, great to hear you’re coming back to Singapore & yes I’ll be around from the 12th March (in Europe for about 10 days beforehand) & would love to meet you. Could we continue that conversation by email (jane@janestours.sg).
      In the meantime I did notice mention of your old home in this chat; could you tell me its address or at least exactly where it is? Next to the old Turf Club (the area is now known as Turf City!) or a little further away? I’m hoping to show it to the Johnsons this Saturday when I take them on a tour. Thx, Jane

  21. Mark Bailey says:

    Ps we also lived in a house on the racecourse which still exists as did the Brown family ….see above. MCB

  22. Mark Bailey says:

    If you go through Turf City and follow the road at the end of the car park, right behind and at the end of the grandstand, with the old racecourse on your right, I think you go round a small bend and it is 192 Race Course Road (the other being 198). I’ll try and send you some photographs. Best Wishes, Mark

  23. Jane Iyer says:

    Thanks Mark, glad we’re also in touch by email; as mentioned, I visited the house today, met the resident and she’s OK with visits – esp from people who have a connection!

    • Hi am Segar and am also from Turf Club from 50s.. 60s. My dad, Mr Rama was a Supervisor and most of my family members resided at the quarters for many years till we were told to move out from the estate. Most of my uncles were staff from turf club, too. Any familiar people here whom I can reach please. Good to reunite. Hope to catch up with my Kampung friends.

  24. Wylyn Lau says:

    Would like to contact Mark Bailey via email

  25. Brian Campbell says:

    Father in RAF. Was at Butterworth from February 1959 & moved down to Changi in 1961 – he was an air traffic controller. I was at Alexandra Grammar School, Singapore boarding at Kinloss House. Father took me to the Singapore Derby at Bukit Timah in 1961 & being a Scot I had to pick White Heather. But having raced the horses on my Totopoly board the night before the race, when Dreamboat won, I decided to pick them in a straight forecast with White Heather as the winner. My father gave me $2 & he was delighted to say the least when I presented him with the ticket after the race. They were the two biggest outsiders in the race & the forecast paid around $760. Happy times!!!!

  26. Yasmine Wolfe (Amir) says:

    Wow! Some great memories. I remember the new grandstand and new entrance were being built. We used to sit on the hill opposite the grandstand with our picnics and watch the races. I left Singapore when the racetrack was still being used and was a vibrant community of its own. I remember the crowds walking up on Saturdays and Sundays and the roar that would go up during a race. I don’t think I want to see it now, silent and empty.

  27. Rowena says:

    I used to live on Blakang Mati in late 50’s my father was in the army and stationed there. I remember being taught to ride there by a Captain Ian Wooldridge, he had two horses that used to race at Bukit Timah race course “Short Hairs” and “One Three One” I still have photos of the horses and the grooms and also a photo of Captain Wooldridge. I absolutely loved my childhood there. I have been back in 2009 and visited the Nature Reserve!

    • Jane Iyer says:

      Hi Rowena,
      Would love to hear more of your childhood memories here in Singapore. I lived in JB as a kid in the 60s, now been here for 21 years & very involved in the heritage scene, to the extent I set up my own tours business nearly 5 years ago, specialising in history, culture etc.
      Hope to hear back from you especially as we’re thinking of curating a tour around the old Turf Club, now known as Turf City.
      Regards, Jane (www.janestours.sg)

      • Mark Bailey says:

        Hi Rowena & Jane, I lived on the racecourse at that time. They employed an Irish vet named Mike Hennigan (I think) whom Ian Wooldridge may have known, who believed in the “Black Box” (a sort of alternative medicine) ! I was lucky enough to meet Jane this year when she kindly took me to my old house; she does fantastic tours and next time I am in Singapore will join one.

  28. Mohamad idil says:

    Hi all my name is idil a.k.a Ady Dragko
    I’m a Co-Founder in Reality Beyond D’ Chronicles (under “Registered of Society”)

    I’m actually from 1 of the Paranormal Explorer in Singapore. I did not stay or even had an experience in turf city, except the horse race. But due to hobbies in Explorer & Paranormal hunting. I had a question to seek from anyone here. If there are any historical stories,old abandoned buildings, Ruins, or World War Bunkers etc. That can be found in anywhere at turf club area. As we are doing some investigation on certain parts of Singapore. Kindly share any of yours experience to me. By email: adrelyeng@yahoo.com.sg I am very much appreciate if anyone can share to me even its just a rumours spread through out the entire turf clubs.

    Thank you very much to all of you in advance.

    Mohamad idil bin abdullah
    a.k.a Ady Dragko

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