Camel racing is a popular part of the Melbourne Cup Day at the Gympie Showgrounds, and all sorts of techniques will be on show as jockeys race down the straight.
Camel racing is a popular part of the Melbourne Cup Day at the Gympie Showgrounds, and all sorts of techniques will be on show as jockeys race down the straight. Craig Warhurst

Cup day spirit a sure bet

THE Gympie Turf Club is confident today’s Melbourne Cup Day celebrations at the Southside racecourse won’t succumb to the weather, as was memorably the case last year.

One of the biggest crowds to ever descend on the Gympie Showgrounds was gearing up for the race that stops the nation when a line of thunderstorms unleashed its fury on the region.

The grey skies and distant rumbling had been building all afternoon, but the timing could not have been worse.

Just as the big race was about to start, and punters gathered around the television sets, betting tickets firmly in hand, a lightning strike delivered its verdict.

Television screens went blank and racegoers collectively let out an agonising cry as power was cut.

But instead of resigning themselves to defeat, racegoers relied on methods of old – the good old car radio.

A few even phoned friends who had power to listen to the race that way.

In true Melbourne Cup spirit, the event marched on regardless.

And it is that kind of spirit that is again set to be a feature of today’s exciting Melbourne Cup celebrations.

Only this time around, the weather forecast is tipping a nice, warm day and clear blue skies.

Gympie racing commentator Barry Fitzhenry has predicted the biggest crowd of the year to turn out for the celebrations.

“The biggest crowd of the year is expected to turn out at the Gympie Racecourse for the Melbourne Cup celebrations,” he said.

It’s an ambitious goal set by the Gympie Turf Club as it seeks to top its own success with the Action Auto Group Gympie Cup a fortnight ago.

Racegoers, however, will not be taking the splendour of horses showcasing their athleticism on the track.

Instead, as Fitzhenry says, it will be the “ships of the desert” sailing down the straight.

“As the Gympie Turf Club no longer has a race date allocated on Melbourne Cup Day, camel racing has been substituted,” he said.

Those who have been to a Melbourne Cup Day at the Showgrounds know all to well what to expect.

But for those new to the twist on traditional racing, it’s something to behold.

Brave local identities and representatives from local businesses take part in the camel races, where the battle appears to be more in staying on the camel than finishing first.

The trick, as some intrepid camel jockeys found out last year, was selecting a ride that showed plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

However, early perceptions proved to be deceiving for some as the liveliest of camels lost their nerve when the starter’s gun was fired.

Legs and arms were sent flying about in all directions and an uproar of laughter came from an appreciative crowd as the jockeys tried, sometimes in vein, to stay in control.

Gympie Turf Club president Spencer Slatter said there would be six camel races in total, with the last being a celebrity race organised by Little Haven Palliative Care.

The race will coincide with a luncheon being held by the charity, raising vital funds for the ongoing care for Gympie’s terminally ill.

“There will also be Fashions of the Field with great prizes again on offer,” Slatter said.

“It’s going to be a great day, and it’s great to have a record number of marquees booked out.”

Gates will open at 9.30am and price of admission is $10 for adults and $2 for concession.

Gympie Times


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