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Wednesday 4 September 2019

Birdsville - the world's most remote racecourse

Birdsville has a distinct attraction for racing fans. Not only is it notable for raising funds for Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service, when the tiny town of Birdsville swells from 100 people to 7,000 for its annual two-day racing event, it’s one of the world’s most remote racecourses. 

850 miles from Brisbane and nearly 400 miles south of Alice Springs, racing has been a part of this small section of the Simpson Desert since the late 1800s. Yet, it was only after the Prime Minister visited in 1979 that it rose to prominence as one of the racing calendar’s most unique and attractive meets. 

Characterised by the plumes of smoke that emerge in the wake of the horses’ pounding hooves, the sun-burnt dirt track is home to two days of high stakes racing and a wide range of entertainment for the crowds that descend on this otherwise quiet location in the Australian outback. 

Horses from all over the country compete for the Birdsville Cup which forms part of the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival’s programme of 13. Visitors come from all over the world to experience the event with last year’s two-day meet celebrating the 135th anniversary.

More than 200,000 Australian dollars are on offer as horses and their riders tackle the 2000 metre oval track. The “Melbourne Cup of the Outback”, as it has been dubbed, also treats visitors to a choice of other entertainment with film and live music, Fred Brophy’s infamous travelling boxing troupe and various cocktail parties. 

But quite rightly, one of its major attractions is how remote the race is. Getting here is not straightforward. For instance, the only commercial flight into Birdsville is Rex Airlines’ twice-weekly “milk run” which brings important suppliers to the local community. Other flights can be booked on an ad hoc basis with tour operators organising planes to carry visitors specifically for the race. 

Those making the long drive from Brisbane or Alice Springs must tackle the trip in four-wheel-drive vehicles only. Routes are varied but offer those willing to take on these epic journeys many wonderful memories before the two days of racing. 

For UK travellers, as well as making sure you take the sun cream and a hat – be prepared to check about payment for UK gambling sites if you plan to have a punt. With six races on day one and seven races on day two, you’ll want to know how to make deposits while abroad and ensure you can enjoy fast withdrawals to get the most out of your short stay here. 

Your winnings might also help you to explore some of Birdsville’s other delights. Have a beer at the historic Birdsville Hotel, which has been serving a cold pint since 1884, or takes a guided four-wheel drive tour of Big Red, one of the most impressive dunes in the Munga-Thirri National Park. You can also swim in the Diamantina River or discover more of the outback at the Dingo Caves. It’s an event that, for the travelling few who venture out to this remote part of the world, offers an unforgettable couple of days at the races.