Racegoers Revel in Red Dust Kicking Off Iconic Birdsville Races

Beneath the great outback sky, the 141st Birdsville Races kicked off today with a burst of trackside colour and red desert dust, about 3,000 punters converged on the race track on the edge of Outback Queensland’s Simpson Desert for the iconic two-day race meet.

This year’s Melbourne Cup of the Outback’ is fielding a stellar 142 entries across a bumper 13-race program.

“We’ve had an awesome first day of racing.  The vibe at the track is great and there’s lots of colour and fun – and the trainers are loving the conditions.  It’s going to be another cracking day of racing tomorrow for the TAB Birdsville Cup,” said Gary Brook, Vice President, Birdsville Race Club.

Horses, trainers and jockeys hailing as far afield as QLD, NSW, SA and the NT in for the   first   day   of   Western Queensland’s richest   two-day race meet, with eccentric -dressed racegoers and wild and wacky costumes.

Race caller Josh Fleming has been calling the Birdsville Races since 1999 when he was 14, after Queensland racing steward John Wallis spotted his ability after hearing him do a phantom call from the Sunday newspaper form guide.

Josh has worked his way up through the industry and in 2015 was appointed Chief Race Caller for Sky Racing Brisbane and a Group 1 race caller at major metropolitan meets.

“I still come back to Birdsville every year as it’s where I got my start, and it’s one of the most fun race meets in Australia.  I love it, and it’s been a real treat to bring my family out with me this year.  My kids have now been to their first Birdsville Races, and I hope it’s a tradition we’ll continue for many years to come.  Today has been crazy.  We’ve never had a 100-1 winner in my time, and I think it’s probably actually the first ever 100-1 winner in the history of the races,” said Josh Fleming.

Josh’s 5-year-old daughter may also be destined for a career behind the mic after she auctioned off yabbies in Windorah for the yabbie races on their trip out to Birdsville.

“She was desperate to get on the mic, we’ve been joking that she’s got to be Australia’s youngest auctioneer – just as I was once Australia’s youngest race caller at the Birdsville Races,” added Josh.

While some come for the horses, the Birdsville Races weekend is equally famous for its unconventional fashions and trackside frivolities as its opening day highlight Fashions on the Field drew in thousands.

Today’s novelty dress competitions for men, women and children saw all sorts from top hats and tails to Steve and Terri Irwin (complete with blow up snake and croc), banana suits, jockeys, ski suits, vintage Barbies in the desert, nuns and a host of teams including the ‘Cowgirls with Attitude’ in matching themed gear all trying to capture the eye of the judges.

The ‘Bad Habits’ group took out today’s Fashions on the Field with a group of five Nuns and a priest.

Birdsville Races Roadies also travelled from far afield, many such as 93-year Bob ‘Pottsy’ Potts were fulfilling bucket-list dreams.  After backing the winner in 2012 Pottsy’s family promised to bring the fun-loving senior back to the Races if he reached 90.  And after a few false starts because of Covid – and then having to get airlifted out of Betoota last year by the Royal Flying Doctors when he fell ill on the trip back to Birdsville last year – Pottsy has made his return in fine form in 2023.  Travelling with his son Reg and daughter Lyn (who is a registered nurse) he has become a Birdsville Roadies favourite – picking up an additional 200 Facebook followers on his trip to the event and cherished memories with his family.

The OBE Organic VIP marquee had more than 230 ticket holders trackside enjoying a menu that included Sticky Asian OBE meatball bites with hoisin, Sourdough OBE Shaved steak sandwich with sticky harissa onions and OBE beef kofta with hummus and tomato cucumber salad.

Today’s highlights included ‘Moderna’s Arrow’ last race win by a nose paying 100-1, as well as a track record by Scout Honour in Race 3.

The hot tip for the Birdsville Cup tomorrow is Cuban Affair.

Tomorrow sees the 2023 race program culminate with the headline 1600m TAB Birdsville Cup, which this year offers a record $50,000, a 20% increase from last year’s $42,000 the largest prize­ purse in the event’s history.

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.

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