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By Graham Potter | Friday, September 6, 2019

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

It is billed as ‘an event unlike any other’ and, in this case, that promotional description is absolutely accurate.

We are talking about the Birdsville races, an iconic Australian event which many put on their bucket list and who then, after visiting once, continue to make the annual pilgrimage because of the unique, raw attraction of a race-meeting that transforms the Diamantina region bringing a tidal wave of visitors to a town which, at the last census, had a permanent population of 140.

For the racing week the town’s population temporarily swells to something in the region of 7 000 people who all enjoy the many activities that take place during this one momentous week of the year where Birdsville stakes its claim to fame.

This week’s event will be a far cry from those early days at Birdsville where races were filled by horses bred in the outback and ridden by jackaroos. This year, the one hundred and fifty-four horses that have been carded over the two race days this year (including emergencies) come from far and wide.

Where else would you get trainers travelling their horses to a meeting from the likes of Darwin (a 2300km, 29 hour drive) or the Sunshine Coast (a 1600km, 18 hour drive).

But they do it for Birdsville.

Where else would you get runners from as much as eighteen different bases coming together for the contest. That’s what’s happening in Birdsville with trainers, apart from those from Darwin and the Sunshine Coast already mentioned, coming from Roma, Tambo, Mount Isa, Julia Creek, Backall, Toowoomba, Barcaldine, Miles, Ilfracombe, Quorn, Strathalbyn, Nyngan, Jundah, Charleville, Charters Towers and Goolwa.

That’s the attraction of Birdsville for you!

Jockeys likewise travel many kilometres to get there. It really is a dedication to a cause on the part of both the owners, trainers and the jockeys involved … and that cause is the Birdsville races … and, as such, they all contribute to not only keeping, but growing, a legendary outback event which has the spirit of Australia stamped all over it in a manner which does the country proud.

There can be little doubt that those who attend the races at Birdsville this week will come away, as always, tingling with an experience which is so different to the norm that many find difficult to put into words.

Nobody stands on ceremony. There are no airs and graces. Just a rollicking good time.

Have you been there yet?

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