Horse-racing at Castlepoint dates back to the first days of European settlement in the district. Flying hooves pounded the sand long before there was ever a Castlepoint Racing Club — or a New Zealand Racing Conference.
First settled by Thomas Guthrie in 1848, Castlepoint has already one of the main resting-places for travelers riding up and down the coast. In those very early days informal races were almost certainly held frequently on the beach.
Later participants would have included men who worked on the surrounding stations, and owned their own horses. The owners backed their horses against one another's — and bottles of rum are said to have figured largely in the wagers.
As settlement of the district progressed, the races became more organised and were combined with a picnic on the beach.
No written record of races actually at Castlepoint can be found until 1875 — and then only in the form of a newspaper story saying that a scheduled meeting had not been held. However, the Wairarapa Standard of January 4, 1873, recorded that, '… the Whareama Races, despite sundry charitable rumours to the contrary, are now an accomplished fact.'
The races have over the years been held at a number of venues besides the beach, so it's this accomplishment the Castlepoint Racing Club has chosen to start counting from. That meeting was held on Boxing Day of 1872, making the March 1999 meeting the 126th.
From the earliest rum-bottle wagers, there has always been betting in one form or another. The Tinui meetings of the 1880s had a proper totalisator, and the bookies were unofficially in attendance until the 1950's, when the club became the first in the country to take advantage of the new gaming laws and introduce an equalisator. This sweepstake type of betting, as a newspaper writer once observed, operates more like a lucky dip than a tote. Punters pay their $1 and then learn which horse they have bet on.
Race dates and times are governed by the tides. If they are a little erratic the first race may have to be delayed — or riders in the last may have to steer their steeds through the wavelets.
Next race date set for 2nd March 2013