Albert Edmund Cockram, born near Gingin in 1870, was one of the most influential, colourful and controversial identities in the long history of WA racing and pacing. He was a star on both and, for a time, he owned most of the theatre.

Like his father before him, Cockram harboured an interest in racehorses and business trades, becoming an expert at buying and selling a bewildering array of stock, properties and wholesale and retail enterprises.

He would make a great fortune in these ventures.

While only 20, Cockram convinced legendary horse trainer, George Towton, to supply him with his first racehorse in exchange for a prized dairy cow. His second horse he bought at auction, won at Ascot with him at 100/1 and sold him the same day for a large profit.

In 1895, at age 25, the impassioned youngster, already rich, made the staggering decision to lease Burswood Island for 15 years and develop it into a racecourse.

In 1905 he bought the land outright for £15,000 and opened the new track. He named it Belmont Park.

He then purchased swampland adjacent to Belmont and created Goodwood Racecourse.

These types of courses were called proprietary clubs and were not governed by the WA Turf Club. They were privately owned and all profits went into the pockets of the owners. As late as

1937, the only club to come under the WATC auspices, was Ascot.

When Albert Cockram opened Belmont, there was innuendo that the 35-year-old owner ran not just the track, but the results!

The Sunday Times wrote, with a degree of vitriol, that Albert E Cockram was the owner of racehorses, weighted by his own handicapper, to compete on his own circuit, under the supervision of his own stewards, in front of his own judge’s box and judge, and weighed-in on his own weighing machine.

Despite the aspersions, the promotion for racing was enormous. In 1910, Albert Cockram became a member of the inaugural WA Trotting Association committee, which conducted their first-ever meeting at Cockram’s Belmont Park – for a fee.

When the WATA subsequently leased Claremont Showgrounds instead, Cockram resigned.

In 1911, Cockram won a Railway Stakes with Apple Charlotte and, in 1914, Dollar Dictator won him a Perth Cup. A true visionary, Cockram had imported that horse from England, long before this process was given much thought by others.

Cockram rightly saw importing bloodlines as the future and acquired stallions from Europe, New Zealand and around Australia, founding the hugely successful Belmont Park Stud, whose influence persists even now.

He shipped 160 horses to WA in one year alone. Cockram’s land and stock acquisitions also continued to escalate. He secured large swathes of real estate across the state and imported the best sheep and cattle lines from England. In addition, he began breeding Clydesdale horses, which he sold to the Swan Brewery.

In Perth city he bought a section of Barrack Street, trebling his outlay when he sold it 18 months later.

Among the thoroughbred stallions Cockram imported, Camelhair would become a multiple leading sire in WA and Sansofine would sire four different winners of the Railway Stakes.

During World War One, Cockram was commissioned by WA Turf Club chairman, Ernest (later Sir Ernest) Lee Steere to choose and purchase for him a yearling colt at the Sydney sales.

Cockram’s deal has become part of racing folklore. For 350 guineas, he bought a son of Eudorus, later named Eurythmic, and arguably the West’s greatest-ever galloper.

During Cockram’s lifetime, the WATC constantly attempted to relieve their nemesis of Belmont Park and Goodwood but the asking price was always too high.

After Cockram’s death, in 1943, the club was able to procure the courses from his estate, at a much lower cost. The club also took over Helena Vale and Canning Park around that time.

Albert Cockram – a true legend of West Australian racing – immortalised now in the WA Racing Industry’s Hall of Fame.