Horseracing was a marker in all British colonial societies and was often one of the first sporting events established in early settlements. While the races in Palmerston and Darwin after 1911 were considered the preeminent Northern Territory event in the Top End races had been held in Central Australia at Christmas time by the McDonnell Ranges Turf Club from the late 1870s. Race meetings were also held in mining communities and various locations in the bush. The annual race meeting was not only a sporting event but a major social occasion with people coming from far and wide to attend. It was often the only sporting social occasion that some settlers attended.
The first horseraces in Palmerston were on the beach at Fannie Bay. The first Northern Territory race meeting was held in in the vicinity of the current Fannie Bay course in 1873. Racing became organised under the auspices of the Northern Territory Racing Club in 1882. The NTRC organised racing in the Northern Territory up until just after World War II. Today’s Darwin Turf Club was formed in 1955.