I’m excited. Like a kid who’s peeked downstairs on Christmas night and spotted a Malvern Star under the tree. It’s Stradbroke weekend.
Queensland’s favourite race day. At our best racetrack. Eagle Farm. Since 1890. What a tradition.
The great sporting venues are rich with history. Around every corner. Especially on a racecourse.
When I first visited Flemington, I imagined Phar Lap steaming up that giant straight. Listen hard, and you can hear the whoosh as Big Red surges to the post.
Go to Randwick, and feel the spirit of Tommy Smith bustling past. On his way to saddle up another winner. Maybe chip a jockey who ignored the gospel.
Eagle Farm is different. When I sit in the stands, I think about the punters of winter carnivals gone by. Cheering. Cursing. Offering a tale of woe to anyone who might be listening. Yep, some things don’t change.
There are spots on course, that help tell a state’s history. I like that. Something old. Something new.
Memories away from the track too. I remember watching in awe from Bundaberg when Rough Habit won his second Stradbroke in 1992. I groaned in Cairns back in ’95 when my favourite sprinter Schillaci could only finish second.
Since then, I’ve worked on some tradition of my own. And that’s why I’m so excited.
My mate and I plan it every year. Our favourite weekend, that revolves around the big race. He flies up, I take time off. A racing holiday for old farts.
It all starts today. We’re off to the Bernborough Club lunch. Honouring a champ, with a few hundred other like-minded fans. They’ll be excited too. I’ll check this for you, but I suspect cool drinks could be on offer.
We’ve been told that Mick Dittman might be speaking. I hope they don’t mind two blokes squealing like schoolgirls on table seven.
At day’s end, we’ll devour a steak at the Caxton. Then watch the footy. Not too late, though. That’s the plan anyway. A bloke needs to be reasonably tidy for the main event.
Come Saturday, we actually get nervous walking through those big gates at the end of Racecourse road. The huge crowd walks as one. Form guide in one pocket. Hope in another.
The day flies past. Brisbane Cup. The TJ Smith. The Derby. And the Stradbroke. What a program.
For what it’s worth, we both like Woorim in the big one. Go the local boy.
At day’s end, we’ll catch the bus to the pub down the road for a few cleansing ales. Like they did fifty years ago. Hopefully we’ll have enough left to actually buy one.
Then it’s off for post-races Chinese. The same restaurant every year, of course. They should remember our order by now.
Once, when the Brisbane Cup was still run on the holiday Monday, we bumped into Paul Perry and the owners of Newport there.
They were celebrating their win in the Cup, and counting cash. With that beautiful cup in the middle of the table. We promised each other, over a mountain of fried rice and cups of cheap wine, that we’d do the same one day.
If we’re not under the whip by this stage, we venture out for a final sip. It’s a never-ending search for somewhere playing eighties music. Sad, isn’t it.
Last year we took a wrong turn, and ended up in a karaoke bar with some very loud American students. Not quite what we were looking for.
Anyway, that’s our weekend. Wish us luck. If you happen to see us along the way, some words of encouragement would be good. Maybe even a tip or two. Another chapter will be written. On and off the track. Tradition. You can’t beat it.