RUNAWAY COVID OUTBREAK LEADS TO BIRDSVILLE RACES POSTPONEMENT
The bucket-list 2021 Birdsville Races were scheduled to run on September 3rd and 4th.
“We are now less than a month away from the event, and more than 85% of our ticket holders reside in locations that are interstate and unable to currently enter Queensland, or in lockdown or discouraged from travelling to regional Queensland. The fact that key staff and contractors cannot make it to Birdsville now also jeopardizes our ability to stage a successful event. When announcing the end to the South-East Queensland lockdown on Sunday, the Queensland Premier pleaded with people not to travel to regional Queensland. We respect this cautionary request. We consulted key stakeholders and feel that postponing now while our patrons and local businesses in the region can plan for it is the responsible and right thing to do. It’s not what we wanted to do but it is the responsible decision. To run the 2021 TAB Birdsville Cup in 2022 is unprecedented but if its good enough for the Olympics, it’s good enough for us,” said Gary Brook, Vice President, Birdsville Race Club.
“We have tried our best, but the health landscape and COVID outbreaks with this new Delta variant have changed significantly in the past two months. Our risk assessment was just too great, and we have a duty of care to our staff, the Birdsville community, ticket holders and the broader population to ensure we are responsible and cognoscente of the significant health risk facing the country. Postponing the Birdsville Races really was the only decision we could make at this time,” added David Brook, President, Birdsville Race Club.
The Race committee considered the remote location of the small Simpson Desert township of Birdsville, the lack of medical facilities in the region, the need for many local businesses to order non-refundable or perishable stock, and the inability of businesses in Birdsville and surrounding townships to source the staff they need to operate due to lockdowns and border closures when making the hard call to postpone the event.
“We fully support the decision to postpone the Birdsville Races. While the event is important to our business and such a fun part of our annual calendar, nothing is more important to us than the health of the small community in which we operate and the health of our patrons. We appreciate that the decision to postpone has been made with enough time to allow us to manage our stock and staffing appropriately. We’ll all be back with a huge double celebration next year and can’t wait to welcome patrons to a historic year of two big race meets in Birdsville,” said Ben Fullagar, General Manager of the Birdsville Hotel.
Birdsville Police understand the Birdsville Race club has made the difficult decision to postpone the 2021 Birdsville Races.
“Local police will always work with stakeholders to ensure the ongoing health and safety of their communities, which is paramount in these uncertain times. Police look forward to supporting a bigger and better event in April 2022,” said Stephan Pursell, Birdsville Police Station.
Moving the Birdsville Races to a date later in 2021 was considered given the ongoing nature of COVID challenges and the extreme temperatures that are experienced in the Simpson Desert region, the Club considered 2022 was the preferred option.
“We wanted to be sure we moved to a date that allowed plenty of time to bring this current outbreak under control, for vaccination levels to continue to grow and borders to open. Unfortunately going any later this year would be far too hot for the horses and our camping ticket holders. Our unique racetrack is in the Simpson Desert, and the temps regularly hit 45-50 degrees as we head into summer. We’ve gone with April next year when we’ll have lovely temperate weather similar to what we have in September,” said Gary Brook.
The Birdsville Races, known as the Melbourne Cup of the outback, have been held since 1882 and have only been cancelled twice in the events history. Due to equine flu in 2007, and then COVID in 2020.
The two-day spectacular of outback thoroughbred racing is synonymous with plumes of striking red dust as horses thunder down the Simpson Desert track and provides a much needed economic boom for the Diamantina Shire of Outback Queensland, as well as a much needed social event for remote property holders and communities.
Demand for tickets to the 2021 event was huge, with first release tickets selling out on the first day they went on-sale. Patrons who purchased tickets for the 2021 and would like to attend the postponed event don’t need to do anything. Existing tickets remain valid, and all customers will be resent tickets closer to the new event date.
If ticket holders are unable to attend the rescheduled event, refunds will be offered. All ticket holders will be contacted directly with this information soon.
Additional tickets for the revised event date will be released in October 2021 while tickets for the September 2022 Birdsville Races will go on-sale in early 2022.
The iconic township of Birdsville, with a general population of just 115, plays host to the renowned 13-race carnival, with those who make the pilgrimage to Australia’s most remote town treated to a jam-packed weekend of thoroughbred racing, fun at the Birdsville Hotel and unique outback entertainment including an outdoor cinema under the Milky Way, live music and Fred Brophy’s famous travelling boxing troupe.
The event also supports the important outback medical work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Each year, horses and trainers make the long haul trek to Birdsville setting 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 Simpson Desert township itself.
The on-sale date of tickets to the 2021 Birdsville Races will be announced in the coming months with race entry and trackside hospitality options also available for pre-purchase.
What: Birdsville Races
Where: Birdsville, Queensland
When: Sunday 10th and Monday 11th April, 2022