Melbourne Cup? Pfft! These bush race meets have way more grunt

Don’t baulk at the fact you can’t sit next to Gai Waterhouse and sip Veuve Clicquot in a VIP air-conditioned box-seat wearing this season’s Jimmy Choos (that’d be sacrilegious in the dirt).

Because when our Aussie outback folk come together to host their equivalent Flemington race do, you can bet your last dollar at the bookies that the beers will be cold, horses (or any kind of animal) will race, and you will have the time of your life.

Everyone knows about the Birdsville Races but here are the other, less well-known bush race meets you need to experience at least once in your life:

Longreach Race Meet // Saturday 14 March, 2015

If you missed out on Melbourne Cup last year, don’t dwell on it. Redirect your holiday savings to the opening race of the season in the Central West. Who needs strutting celebrities and manicured lawns when you can enjoy five raring-to-go race starts with the backdrop of the mighty Thompson River surrounded by Mitchell Grass? Now that’s livin’.

Boulia Easter Races // Saturday 3 April, 2015

The Easter Bunny will still find you camping in Boulia; where even the chocolate tastes better coated in fresh country air. Be warned, you will gain (outback) celebrity status if you win the ladies fashions on the field, which means pledging to stay the weekend and spending your winnings at the rodeo and campdraft.

Julia Creek Races // Saturday 18 April, 2015

If the outback had an award for the most ‘refined’ bush race event the trophy would go to this one, renowned for its decadent Red Claw seafood luncheon. Here you won’t look silly flaunting your best Armani suit and figure-hugging frock to rival Jennifer Hawkins on Instagram. #countrystylin’

Quilpie Cup // Saturday 9 May, 2015

This is ‘Glory Racing’, as the locals call it, in memory of two outback race champions and brothers Bill and KJ Costello. They were jockeys of (many) winning horses and races across western Queensland from Birdsville to Rockhampton and as far as Cairns. Learn more about Quilpie (like the fact you can fossick for Opals) while mingling at the twilight hoe-down and boot-scootin’ the night away.

McKinlay Races // Saturday 20 June 2015

Separated from the gruelling triathlon bash, Julia Creek in the McKinlay Shire again plays host to a family affair as it’s done since 1888. These days, it’s known as the most dominant meet in all of North West Queensland, attracting the likes of 600-plus cashed up race goers and some serious thoroughbred talent.

Stamford Races // Saturday 4 July, 2015

Galloping strong for 115 years, this race meet cleverly entices you to roll out a swag under the stars with a free brekkie the next day, plus loads of other community activities like the Stockman’s Challenge – testing the equestrian skills of local men and women with shoeing, whip cracking and riding bareback.

Betoota Races // Saturday 29 August 2015

The town is traditionally known for it’s annual camel races, but today they’ll be resting as this six-horse race meet kicks off the famed Simpson Desert Racing Carnival. Fingers crossed your winning eye is now tuned and sharp, before likely making tracks with 6,000 other happy-as-Larry punters to the mighty Birdsville races.

Bedourie Races // Friday 11 – Saturday 12 September, 2015

Bedourie wraps the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival up with a hession knot, with a gripping rodeo of lassos and roping, followed by a family day of horse racing in the Queensland sun. If you’re still wanting more, detour home via Quilpie for the season’s final shindig.

Pride of the West (Quilpie) // Friday 25 – Saturday 26 September, 2015

These ponies may not have the bloodlines of Far Lap or Makybe Diva but they sure pack a punch in the annual Station Challenge. Ridden by local stockmen and women, the title of ‘The Pride of the West’ is extremely sought after and only awarded to the horse that wins after four gruelling heats. Drinks at the bar should then be on the winner (without the long face).

Have you been to any of these race meets before? Share your experience in the comments below.

(Words Nikki Dudley)

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