The red earth of outback Queensland is set to come to life with the thundering of hooves, as the annual Birdsville Races brings thousands of people to the bush for a day at the track with a difference.
The country’s most remote horse race is an iconic annual event, that this year will run on September 2 & 3 2016.
Set in the Simpson Desert in the small township of Birdsville – population 115 people, known as one of the most isolated towns in Australia, will welcome more than 10,000 race goers of all ages for the hotly contested Birdsville Races.
Now in its 134th year, the renowned Birdsville Races offer an outback experience like no other.
“Seeing the plume of red dust and colour of the jockey’s silks against the barren landscape as the horses thunder around the dirt track is a spectacular site. There is no other race meet like the Birdsville Cup anywhere in the world. It really is a bucket list experience,” said Gary Brook, Vice President, Birdsville Race Club.
The two-day event consists of a 13 race program, and has a prize pool of $200,000. Taking place on a Friday and Saturday, the event offers a wide range of activities and entertainment for race-goers.
“We are remote, but that’s part of the appeal of the races. People start arriving in town from the beginning of August, and make a real trip out of it camping in the region and enjoying the yabby races, street parties and other events in surrounding towns that lead into the big attraction – the Friday and Saturday race days in Birdsville. The winter rain has meant the desert wildflowers are in bloom, and the countryside is beautiful,” added Gary Brook.
With dirt as far as the eye can see at the legendary Birdsville Race track, the only flashes of colour come race day are the wide open cornflower blue skies, the jockey silks, dessert flowers and the fashion on the fields.
“Fashion on the fields is taken very seriously. Whether it’s an Akubra, fascinator or sun hat race goers love to dress for the occasion and make a big effort. I’m sure there’s some locals who spend all year plotting what their outfit will be for the next event,” joked Gary.
Fashion on the fields offers thousands of dollars in prizes and consists of six categories for men, women and families, and this year a novelty dress competition will be a feature of the Friday race day.
The Birdsville Races proudly support the Royal Flying Doctor Service and hosts a fun run to help fundraise for this vital service in their remote region.
For foodies, there’ll be a variety of food truck vendors at the races, or the option of a luxury outback dining experience in the trackside marquee for those who have purchased a hospitality package.
The Birdsville Races organising committee comprises a network of current and passed residents of Birdsville, all keen to share the magic of the outback races – keeping the event alive and in the psyche of Australian punters.
Each year horses and trainers make the long haul trek to Birdsville, 10,000 kms collectively, where they set up camp under gum trees alongside the Diamantina river – creating their own community that has become as tight knit as the long term residents of the rural township itself.
In 2015 the event achieved a record 121 starters across the 13 race program. Average field sizes were 9.3 starters per race, 16% above the average (8) for non-TAB meetings across Queensland.
What: Birdsville Races
Where: Birdsville, Queensland
When: Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd September 2016
How much: Friday general entry $25, Saturday general entry $30
For $60 race goers can purchase a special limited edition medallion for $60 that gives entry both days plus discounted evening entertainment and souvenirs.