Three centuries of horse-racing in Manchester came to an abrupt end in November 1963 when Lester Piggott rode Fury Royal to victory in the Goodbye Consolation Plate.
Cheers in the grandstand rang out for the final time before race officials began the sorry task of clearing the Castle Irwell course after its last meeting.
Building a new stand had drained the coffers so much that the shareholders had little option but to sell up. It was a sad but seemingly inevitable decision.
The poignant final moments of Castle Irwell were captured in a series of powerful images from the M.E.N. archives – along with photos of happier times at the Salford course.
The first recorded races at Manchester actually took place at Barlow Moor in 1647 and then at Kersal Moor in 1687. Steeplechases were run at Heaton Park, Eccles and Harpurhey in the early 1800s.
Races even took place at Stretford on the site of Old Trafford Cricket Ground from 1852-54.
The main race venue for Manchester from 1687 to 1847 was Kersal Moor – also the site of the second golf course to be built outside Scotland.
The oval race course circled Kersal Moor and crossed the area now occupied by Salford City FC. Part of the course can still be seen today in the shape of the wide path across the north side of the moor.
Racing moved across the river to the Castle Irwell course in Lower Broughton in 1847, but sport continued at Kersal Moor. The Cricket Ground, founded in 1847, became the home of Manchester Rugby Club in 1919 and then Salford City in 1968.
Castle Irwell racecourse took its name from the large castellated house on the site. It occupied boggy land bounded on three sides by the river. There was little surprise that the going was often heavy.
A grandstand capable of holding 1,000 spectators overlooked the course, although there were problems with mist rising from the river.
The land was owned by John Fitzgerald, who granted the racecourse a 21-year lease. This was revoked by his son, also called John, in 1867 as he opposed horse-racing on moral grounds.
Racing then moved to a new course at New Barnes, Weaste, which hosted the £11,000 prize-money Lancashire Plate race and the final fixture of the British flat-racing season, the November Handicap.
But in 1902 the Manchester Ship Canal Company acquired the land under compulsory purchase to build a new dock and warehouses. Again it was time for racing to move on.
John Fitzgerald had died by this time – so the Race committee was able to buy the Castle Irwell course from his executors. The course was remodeled and the entrance gloriously decorated with Dutch gables.
There were three separate tracks – flat, hurdle and steeplechase – and a hotel was built next to the course on Littleton road in 1930.
The prestigious Lancashire Oaks race, over one mile and three furlongs, was run at Castle Irwell until 1963 when the racecourse closed. After that it transferred to Haydock Park. The November Handicap moved to Doncaster.
Castle Irwell notched up two notable firsts in the 1950s. It hosted England’s first ever evening race meeting in 1951 and, a year later, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her first winner as an owner there after acceding to the throne.
The win helped establish a life-long passion for the Queen, who watched her horses compete throughout the country. Our photo shows her and Prince Philip congratulating jockey Gordon Richards after winning the Epsom Derby on Pinza in June 1953.
But perhaps one of the most flamboyant characters at Manchester races was not a jockey, owner, peer or punter. Instead he was a tipster who liked to dress up in feathers, claiming to be a prince of the Falasha tribe of Abyssinia.
He called himself Prince ‘I gotta horse’ Monolulu – although in reality he was Peter McKay from what is now part of the US Virgin Islands!
It was the 1920 Derby that really made him as a tipster. Monolulu picked the winner Spion Kop at odds of 100-6, and never looked back. He even appeared in three films.
His career on the courses lasted from 1903 until his death in February 1965 – not from illness, but choking on a Black Magic strawberry cream chocolate.