The thrill of the chase returned to tiny the Outback town as Day Two of the 141st Birdsville Races kicked off in a flurry of dust and fascinators.
They’ve been racing in this corner of the Simpson Desert since 1882, with race officials commenting that the 2023 TAB Birdsville Cup has what they believe is the strongest field in the history of the iconic event.
With another picture-perfect day of expansive blue skies running into red earth, the thoroughbreds thundered down the dusty racetrack cheered on by thousands of punters in a range of outfits from the wild and whacky to over-the-top glamourous.
SA thoroughbred the Phillip Stokes Racing trained Neodium stormed across the finish line ahead of the field to take home the prestigious 1,600m TAB Birdsville Cup for Birdsville Race Club stalwart and President David Brook. Giving the family their first Birdsville Cup win in 23 years.
Tommy Stokes, who represented his fathers’ Phillip Stokes Racing on the ground in Birdsville said, “It’s been a bloody big effort to get him here and it felt like the pressure was on coming to Birdsville for the Brook’s. We had another win earlier in the day and this is the cherry ripe on the day. It’s my first time in Birdsville and I’ve loved seeing how well it all runs.”
The TAB Birdsville Cup offered a record $50,000, a 20% increase from last year’s $42,000 the largest prize purse in the event’s history.
The luck of the Irish was with Neodium with jockey Emily Finnegan riding the grey gelding to victory after quipping earlier in the day that after “eating dust” yesterday she was determined to get ahead of the pack today for a clear run to the finish line.
Experiencing her first ever taste of the Australian Outback Irish import Emily said, “It’s been a long time between drinks for the Brook family, I had the determination and had a lovely horse beneath me. Phillip Stokes bought me out to Australia from Ireland so it’s nice to be able to give him the Birdsville Cup in the place he grew up. I’ve been treated like Royalty – I can’t wait for the celebrations tonight.”
Representing the elated Brook family, Nell Brook said, “We’re pretty excited to once again hold the Birdville Cup in our hands. It’s my 50th anniversary at the Birdsville Races, and to have our kids and grandchildren here to celebrate with us really is something special. We would like to thank the Stokes family for all they do, and Emily for your beautiful riding today.”
Alongside Emily a strong female line-up of jockeys hit the dusty desert track today, with Emma Bell taking out third place in the TAB Birdsville Cup and five other female jockeys saddling up for a bucket list experience on one of the most unique racetracks in Australia.
Off the track it was also the ladies who also took centre stage, with Fashion on the Field entrants creating a spectacular riot of colour.
The Fashions on the Field winner was Jacquettaa Arnold from Longreach whose dress featured the names of race horses her family have owned.
Aside from their win in the TAB Birdsville Cup today Nell Brook was also celebrating 50 years since she first landed in the Outback outpost – making a statement in the same vibrant red and green colours she had worn on her first ever Birdsville Races in 1973.
“It was quite a journey for me from South Africa 50 years ago. I married David and the races as well. I have seen the event grow from a few hundred people back when I first started attending, to the thousands who travel to the event today. Many of the racegoers get dressed in tents and yet look so stylish they could also enter Fashions on the Field at the Melbourne Cup. Today I’ve decided to wear the same colours of red and green that I wore to my very first Birdsville Races, albeit a different interpretation to the sheer red top and green mini skirt I sported back then,” laughed Nell.
Race Caller Josh Fleming also celebrated a milestone today calling his 20th TAB Birdsville Cup.
Horses, trainers and jockeys hailing as far afield as QLD, NSW, SA and the NT competed in Western Queensland’s richest two-day race meet, with eccentric -dressed racegoers and wild and wacky costumes.
Birdsville Races Roadies also travelled from all corners of Australia, in a fun fuelled road trip following suggested routes and connecting with other travellers as they made the epic journey through the Outback to the Birdsville Races.
Today’s OBE Organic VIP marquee saw ticket holders enjoy a menu that included Smoked Hickory Brisket, Grilled Chicken Piccata and tiramisu.
The Birdsville Races are a full TAB meet with the combined prize money for the 13-race carnival topping more than $300,000 – an increase of 15% on 2022.
The total prize pool for the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival, which includes the Birdsville Races as well as the Betoota and Bedourie Races, now sits at a record $452,000 – making it the richest two weeks of racing in Outback Queensland.
Punters across Australia are able to experience all action from the Birdsville Races from the comfort of their own homes thanks to a renewed national telecast deal between the Races and Sky Racing. The partnership sees the full 13-race line-up televised into homes nationally via Sky Racing.
The Birdsville Races are proudly supported by the Queensland Government, through Tourism and Events Queensland, and features on the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar.