The long and colorful history of the Cairns Jockey Club started in the townships Mining Exchange Hotel in July 1884. Over fifty enthusiastic people signed up for membership and the very first race meeting was conducted shortly after. The day was proclaimed a holiday, and the meeting attracted attendees from as far afield as Herberton and Port Douglas.
The Cannon family generously donated the land where the club is currently located, with the first race meeting held in 1911. Records show that the celebrated Brothers Cairns Cup was first conducted in the early 1900’s, with only the war years interrupting the continuous running of this event.
In recent times several developments have taken place at Cannon Park. The grandstand was opened 15th July 1972, by the Minister of Racing the Honorable Sir Gordon Chalk KBE. It was shortly after that work was started to an extension which now houses the main public bar, tote office and windows, and the Barrier Reef function room. New improvements include the extension of the gallops track to 1800m, construction of the horse swimming pool, completion of the air-conditioned swab stall, upgraded stewards towers and installation of an improved semaphore board and photo finish systems.
In March 2006 the edge of Cyclone Larry whipped through Cannon Park causing minor track and building structural damage. Several sections of the running rail were twisted beyond recognition, and the work shed roof was ripped off, exposing the starting barriers to water damage. On-course signage was damaged, as was the front gate ticket office. Nevertheless the saddest loss was for some of the magnificent fig trees in the tropical gardens.
With office and bar buildings, and stables and tie-ups stalls escaping major damage, the club was fortunate enough to be able to continue trade. A team of members, volunteers and workers ensured that the cleanup and running rail repairs were completed swiftly, allowing trainers to continue their horses work programs with minimal disruption.
Cannon Park has been the home to several smart gallopers who have graduated to becoming stakes place getters and metropolitan winners. These include recent Queensland Cup winner Regal Punch, and the north Queensland bred trio Strictly Smart, See You Twist and Dirtiere. The far north breeding ground does not stop with the gallopers. John O’Shea, Brian Mayfield-Smith and Jack Wilson spent their formative years honing their skills and talents at Cairns.