A copy of the General Regulations and Instructions Relative to Crown Lands issued in a Government Notice in August 1829, gives the following information:
"1st: The Territory is to be progressively divided into counties, hundreds, townships and sections.
2nd: In each county the Crown will reserve 200 sections for the liquidation of expenses. and 200 sections for meeting the expenditure of the county and for sites of towns, race courses and other similar uses."
The first recorded race meeting was held in Western Australia at Fremantle on 2 October 1833, although it was not until 1852 that the controlling body, The Western Australian Turf Club, was formed.
At a meeting convened by Colonel Reeves on 22 October 1852, "Twenty names were enrolled as forming The Club, with His Excellency the Governor (Captain Charles Fitzgerald R.N.) appointed patron. A committee was formed for the drawing up of racing rules of The Club and for making all further arrangements with reference to a racecourse."
The first record of a race meeting held subsequent to the formation of the WATC was a two day fixture in April 1853. The Queen's Plate, of fifty pounds, over three miles, was the big race. In 1879, the Metropolitan Handicap took over from The Queen's Plate as the main handicap race at the annual race meeting and in 1887 the Metropolitan gave way to the Perth Cup.
Great progress was made between 1852-1903, and it was in 1903 that the Perth Racecourse (Ascot) came into being. This brought the number of metropolitan courses to five, with racing also being conducted at Belmont Park, Canning Park, Goodwood and Helena Vale.
In 1917 an Act of Parliament gave The Western Australian Turf Club the power to control racing and all the Clubs then raced under WATC Rules although at that time all bar Ascot were privately owned.
In later years, the WATC took over the operations of Belmont Park (1944), Helena Vale and Goodwood (1945) and Canning Park in 1946. The government took over Canning Park in 1949 and Goodwood in 1950 and racing has since ceased at those venues. The last meeting at Helena Vale took place in 1969.
Membership of the WATC has always been popular and is on the increase again after reaching a low point during the 1980's.
The facilities at Lee-Steere House, named after long serving Chairman Sir Ernest Lee-Steere KBE, were opened in 1986 and today house state of the art computer systems and administrative operating equipment in a comfortable working environment.