Just as Derby Day supports the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup, every Wednesday before the iconic Birdsville Races, there’s a race of a different kind as the Windorah International Yabby Races take over the western corner of Queensland.
The town of Windorah, approximately 1200km west of Brisbane, hosts travellers from far and wide on their quest to Birdsville for a night of live music, entertainment, and of course, the age old sport – yabby racing.
Swap four legs with eight, and soft manes for hard shells, as these crafty crustaceans scurry to the finish line.
Curious? We bet you are! Read on for the ultimate guide to getting your nippers on a winner.
Held in Albert Street on the doorstep of the Western Star Hotel, the races draw over a thousand punters for a night of rowdy fun.
You don’t need to worry about getting a front row seat here. The Western Star Hotel dusts off its grandstands and streams the action live onto big screens, so it’s a VIP view for all.
Channeling festival vibes with live music, food, flowing drinks, and plenty of entertainment, you’ll have all the ingredients for a good time.
How the races work
There are four races; the Barcoo Bolt, Thomson Trot, Kyabra Canter, and the Cooper Cup, all named after the local rivers and creeks that run through the area.
Each race gives 10 yabbies the chance to prove their pace. Don’t expect a standard race track, this one requires a ring.
Instead of wearing silks and colours, the yabbies are labelled from 1-10 (via precise penmanship, and a bottle of white-out), and placed in a middle ring. The goal in this race is simple – whoever’s claw reaches the outside ring first, wins.
It’s raising money for a good cause
We hope you’ve practiced your arm raising skills, because you’re going to need to do your best Selling Houses Australia auction impression at this race with a difference.
Instead of having traditional betting, there is an auction before each race. Each yabby in the race is auctioned off to the highest bidder with the money going towards the major prize and chosen charity like Breast Cancer Research and Royal Flying Doctors.
With average auction bid sitting in at the $450-mark, the 2016 races saw an eye-boggling purchase when $900 was dropped on one of these critters.
All about the athletes
Travelling all the way from the local riverways to compete, these freshwater blue claw crustaceans hail from the neighbouring creeks to wear the title as the fastest yabby in the region.
Their training routine starts as soon as they return from the previous years’ race. Twelve months of swiftly dodging the fishing pots of the local humans to stay alive raises their athletic profile immensely.
The night before the race they are picked up by local wranglers and taken to the race site. The day of the race is set aside for mental preparation and dressing.
How to pick a winner
Strategy is flushed down the dunny when it comes to choosing a winner here.
In fact, first place almost always coming down to sheer luck – so you can leave your form guides, measuring sticks and scales at home if you’d intended on picking a winner based on size and past performance.
Your best bet?
Grab a race program on the night for some tips on each of the competitors (you might want to take them with a grain of salt and a chug of beer) or if you’re feeling lucky, choose your favourite number between one and ten, or the funniest yabby name and run with it until the finish line.
Brush up on the lingo
The folks in the outback love a joke, and thinking up names for the competitors presents the perfect opportunity for a bit of fun.
So get ready to shout out classics like ‘Jai Ant Bawls’, ‘He Wax Off’, and ‘Thai Tarse’ just to name a few, but you get the picture.
The prestigious prize
The final race of the night, the Cooper Cup, presents the opportunity for one lucky yabby owner to scoop up the major prize of the night, complete with a trophy to prove it.
In true outback spirit, the trophies are named after locals who are well known in the region for doing something stupid.
It turns out, getting your hand stuck in a lawn mower is the kind of foolishness that makes you a worthy candidate for a namesake for the fabled Cup at the Windorah International Yabby Races.
Have you ever been to the Windorah International Yabby Races? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
This post was sponsored by the Western Star Hotel.