Here at On the Drift, our favourite day to be trackside in our home state of Queensland is Stradbroke Day. A cracking day of Group racing with clear blue skies and a big crowd at Eagle Farm is hard to beat.
As you know punters, there really is nothing quite like being at the track.
It got us thinking about other terrific race days across the Australian landscape that are a must attend at least once in your lifetime, so we decided to put together a little list.
Now, before we dive in, we have purposefully left out Melbourne Cup day because that is just a little Captain Obvious.
All good? Let’s get into it.
5. Broome Cup Day
We’re starting off in the Wild Wild West here punters by paying a visit to to the picturesque Broome Turf Club in Northern Western Australia.
From June to August, the peak tourist season, over 45,000 people visit Broome.
At the back end of this period is the Broome Cup, which was first held in 1894. With the shoreline of the Indian Ocean as a backdrop perfectly contrasting the red dirt of the track, this racecourse is truly a sight to behold.
If you want to be a member for the day to get the true Broome Cup experience, you will be housed in a tin shed for your trouble.
Now that’s a bit different and something us On the Drift lads can get around. Where do we sign up?
4. Warrnambool Cup Carnival
How bloody good is the ‘Bool?
This 3 day festival of racing is a pilgrimage at the top of every avid punter’s list of race days to attend.
The ‘Bool has been the home of jump racing in Australia for over a century, with thousands of punters making the trip down to the Great Ocean Road every year.
The jewel in the crown of the carnival is the Grand Annual Steeplechase, which is run over 5500m with 33 jumps. I’m tired just thinking about it, I can only imagine what the horses and jockey’s go through!
This time honoured race produced one of the most memorable racing photos ever, when Banna Strand lost his rider and jumped into the crowd, injuring 7 people in the process.
Unbelievably, Banna Strand got his ultimate redemption, winning the Grand Annual two years later in 2013.
An absolute must for punters and non-punters alike, because arguably the most fun is had off field in the many pubs in Warrnambool.
3. Birdsville Races
Located in the heart of Australia on the edges of the Simpson Desert, Birdsville is home to about 140 people.
Only 170 kilometres away is a ghost town a lot of punters may be familiar with – Betoota.
Every September, up to 9000 people make the trek to this rural town for the Birdsville Races with dozens of light aircraft flown into town and parked in rows close to the track.
Across two days there are thirteen races and over $200k in prize money to be won.
The history of this event is really something else. Back in 1882 a group of owners met on the Queensland and South Australian border to hold the first unofficial event which drew a sizable crowd.
The next year the first “Border Jockey Club” was formed and the event is going from strength to strength over 150 years later.
There aren’t a lot of tracks that back onto one of the largest deserts in the world that’s for sure. A bucket list event without a doubt.
2. Ipswich Cup
Gee whiz, what history the city of Ipswich has in Australian racing.
Way back in 1861, the same year that the Melbourne Cup was first run, Ipswich hosted the Australian Champion Sweepstakes.
The Queensland Government must have had deep pockets back in the day, because the prize money was 1,000 pounds compared to only 100 pounds for the Melbourne Cup!
Fast forward to today, and the Ipswich Cup is the most attended race day in Queensland! From experience, the vibe around the Ipswich Turf Club is second to none, with locals and Queenslanders alike experiencing the very best that Ipswich has to offer.
The variety of suits worn by the patrons alone is a thing to witness, because to be quite honest, the quality of racing isn’t quite up to the same standard as the Winter Carnival in Brisbane.
The few times I’ve been, there’s been a stage & massive dance floor in the middle of the track, with thousands of raving fans going wild while the horses do their best work.
But this place will always have a special place in my heart, because it was where I met my beautiful partner. It’s like I always said, all good love stories start at the Ipswich Cup!
Plenty to talk about here.
As you can probably tell we’ve tried to shine a light on some of the potentially lesser known and more unique race days across Australia.
Without question Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley is an extraordinary thing to experience, as are both weekends of the Autumn Championships in Sydney. The Darwin Cup is excellent as well by all accounts.
But, coming in at number one…
1. VRC Derby Day
Here it is, numero uno, the king of race days.
For the true racing enthusiast, Derby Day is the pinnacle of quality racing each year.
Held at Felmington on the Saturday prior to the Melbourne Cup, the card features no less than four Group 1’s, three Group 2’s and two Group 3’s, an absolutely stacked card.
The atmosphere at Flemington is second to none, with the crowd kitted out in traditional black, white and grey.
Picnic blankets with cheese and champagne are sprawled across the green in general admission, with dozens of bookies flashing their odds for the upcoming race everywhere you look.
The mounting yard is a treat before each race, with the best horses of the spring featuring so you can have a bit of a sticky beak.
Speaking from experience, winning the quaddie on Derby Day is one of the best feelings you can have as a punter.
It’s even better when you’re celebrating from the winning post.
Written by Declan Jones & Dan Hutcheon