Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


A tradition lives on

Story and photos John Elliott

Bush race meetings are events that deserve to be preserved so that new generations can have an insight into the time when they were the year's main, if not only, social occasion.

ImageSuch is the case with the ABC Amateur Race Club, formed in the early 1900s for station workers on Alexandria, Brunette Downs, Creswell Downs and nearby stations to meet, let their hair down and, in between, watch or participate in events involving man/woman and horse.

The club's 91st meeting at Brunette Downs in late June preserved the meeting's great traditions.
Held in conjunction with an annual campdraft, rodeo, gymkhana and bronco branding competition, the races are capped off with a Saturday night ball at which the dress code is 'Territory formal - ties must be worn'.

Visitors set up camps near the track and adjacent corrugated iron hall; each station has it's own campsite, while other visitors make their own arrangements.


Race Club president John Stafford (Alroy Downs) and John O'Kane (Helen Springs).

The four-day event showcases traditional outback skills, the action is fast and furious and skinned faces, bandaged arms and the fact that jockeys wear protective vests demonstrate the dangers involved. Inter-station rivalry guarantees spirited competition.Overall winner this year was Lake Nash.

"I don't know how long we can continue with the event," laments race club president, John Stafford of Alroy Downs. "Darwin power brokers de-registered it this year (as an official TAB event) and that has made things difficult. But we're determined to make the centenary."

The ABC Races are chock-full of real bush characters focused on having a good time. If you want an authentic outback bush experience in 2002 - the Year of the Outback, head to Brunette Downs next June.
Information: ABC Amateur Race Club secretary Lisa Kelly, Rockhampton Downs, PMB 11, Tennant Creek, NT 0862. Phone (08) 8964 4634 fax (08) 8964 4568. Story end

Full story and photos: Issue 18, August/ September 2001

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