Music to a mug punter’s ear. The perfect way to end Doomben Cup day.

May 21, 2016

There was a time when entertainment after the last came from your cashed-up mate.

He’d be the one tap dancing, cash in hand, while the rest of us looked for dropped coins and winning tickets discarded in haste.

Times have changed.

It’s not a feature day now without a superstar belting out his or her favourite tunes, minutes after the stragglers have been sent back to their stables.

What a treat last weekend. The legendary Daryl Braithwaite, in full voice at the Doomben 200 metre mark.

They tell me he went over a treat. I was busy near a monitor trying to get out in Perth so couldn’t join the great man on stage, but I could hear him in the distance.

“That’s the way it’s gonna be, little darlin’…’

Yep, the most famous ‘Horses’ since Phap Lap and crew were parading at Flemington.

One of the best racecourse concerts I’ve seen, through bleary eyes, was in Cairns, a few furlongs ago.

It was Cairns Cup day. Quite possibly the greatest consumption of Bundy rum over a 24 hour period in the southern hemisphere.

We were at a footy reunion, dressed sharply, and receiving golden tips from a mate working for a local bookie.

Our deal was that the mail would continue, as long as we loaded up on his counterparts.

It was in this winning environment, that someone mentioned the after-race entertainment.

In the best bit of scheduling since Nikki Webster was sent dangling over the Olympic stadium, local organisers had enticed The Angels to head north.

It’s doubtful if Doc and his mates would have had more loyal fans than those who’d trekked across the state’s far north, many of whom would be sleeping in swags that night.

It’s also doubtful that organisers had painted a true picture of where the ageing Aussie rockers would be strutting their stuff.

The stage was plonked in a swampy paddock, near the top of the straight. This proved difficult for many of the raceday patrons, who by now were without shoes.

It was loud enough to keep the crocs at bay, but not the mozzies, who created a new blood-borne disease based entirely on rum.

We’ve come a long way since then. Race day entertainment is a vital part of getting young people to the track. ¬†What better place to boogie, than the wonderful spaces stretched across our top tracks.

After Our Ivanhowe wins the Doomben Cup this afternoon, a performer by the name of Mashd Kutcher will be doing his thing. The teenagers at home tell me he’s top shelf. Actually, they used a term I didn’t understand, but they seemed excited.

There’s a whisper Elvis has been booked for Stradbroke Day. I may or may not be making that up. Either way, it will be better than your tap dancing mate.

 

 

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Locals reveal their secrets, on how to back a winner at the Cairns Amateurs.

September 13, 2014

The best racecourses get you excited at the front gate.

Walk into Eagle Farm, and tell me you’re not tingling. Randwick too. You can’t help but breathe in the history.

Cairns does it to me every time. The walk to the entrance, reminds me of everything that is wonderful about the tropical north.

So it will be today. There will be a swarm of us, ready for the fun that is Amateurs.

Some, it must be said, will be dusty. Many of those dressed to the nines, will be showing remarkable powers of recovery.

Just hours ago, they were dancing up a storm at the Amateurs Ball. Screaming Shannon Noll’s name as if he was a short-priced favourite three lengths clear.

They will be sweating pure champagne. Such is the sacrifice that must be made for the North’s premier racing event.

Of course, it’s all well and good to be in the social pages tomorrow, but the priority today is to find a winner or three. Luckily, I’m here to help.

After shaking off the black-tie cobwebs, I’ve been able to canvass some experts in the field, to guide you in the right direction

The bloke two stools up at the early-opener told me we must follow that wily veteran Frank Edwards.

He may have been giving that advice for half a century, because that’s how long it seems Frank has been winning races up here.

But age shall not weary him, so don’t be afraid to get on today.

Another veteran hoop will be in action, and as sure as I’ll be late getting a winning bet on, he will win a race.

Robert Thompson could salute on a rocking horse. He’s been coming up here for years, showing the youngsters how it’s done. He might be the one to finance your lobster tonight.

What we don’t want, is to be following jockeys who were bopping to ‘What About Me’ last night.

They tell me he’s a fair dancer, but Chris Whiteley will be saving his special moves for this afternoon. My Gold Coast mates rate him at the top of the tree. Follow him with confidence today, even at odds.

Here’s hoping those three have us excited when we’re walking out of the gates too.

And one final piece of advice. If a woman in fancy headwear tips you something based on names, colours or lucky numbers, follow her. Funny things happen on Amateurs Day. That’s the beauty of it.


In this town, the Amateurs beat the Pros. Another race meeting you just must attend.

September 6, 2014

Everyone has their favourite race places. Days you never forget.

The biggest events. Tracks that come alive. Where you don’t mind being part of the crush.

There are a few race carnivals that are compulsory, at some stage in your life. Must-do days before you turn your toes up.

The Melbourne Cup carnival, obviously. And not just Cup Day. For the true sports fan, Derby Day Saturday has to be included.

You have to do at least one Golden Slipper. And two Darwin Cups. You’re not a true racing fan if you haven’t done Stradbroke Day. Summer isn’t complete without a stroll through the Magic Millions crowd on the Gold Coast.

But there’s one meeting that stands above all others, when it comes to pure fun. Where nothing surprises. Look closely, and you’ll see that the rules on the back of your entrance ticket state clearly that cool drinks must be had.

Like all great sporting events, the magic of the Cairns Amateurs starts way before you waltz through the front gate. There is a genuine buzz across town. It’s excitement, North Queensland style. And I never get sick of going back.

The first lesson newcomers receive, is about the true title. Drop the Cairns. It’s Amateurs. Like Madonna, it’s all that’s needed. Too hot in the north to be wasting words.

Amateurs is much more than two days of racing. There’s the fashion, and the wonderful tropical food, and the flash Friday night ball.

Look a little deeper, and you’ll find the heart of the carnival. The reason it has been so successful for so long. At a time when so many race clubs struggle to understand their crowd.

The Amateurs brings folk together. People from across the vast north of our land, mark it on the calendar months before. Some travel for hours. Others days. So they can catch up with old mates.

Sure, the southerners are a wake up now. Flights are full. The locals spot them a mile off. Sweating through their suit jackets.

There will be a variety of headwear. Fascinators from Melbourne. Akubras from Mareeba. You might spot a nice little number with bobbing corks.

When it comes to enjoying a tipple, there is nothing amateurish about the Amateurs. No surprise there. Something has to settle the dust. The beer will be cold. Rum actually flows from the bubblers. Actually, I made that bit up.

The girls will enjoy a fizz, and a nice drop of white, and pick more winners than me by going on names and colours.

Some will have their shoes off by Race 3. Bless them. There will be dancing in some sections before the quaddie begins. No-one will blink twice.

The Amateurs has the perfect blend of bush and bling. This is no Country Cup. The corporate areas will be bulging. Big money. Starlets. And the odd punting journo.

No race meeting anywhere has more laughter. There is a giggle to be had at every turn. Even my plentiful losses somehow seem less painful.

It’s on next weekend, and I’ll be there. Catching up with old friends. Meeting new ones. And working on keeping my shoes on.

If you’re within a 500 kilometre radius, you should go too. I kid you not, you’ll run into someone you know.

Add it to your list. Flemington, Rosehill, Eagle Farm, Cairns. Has a nice ring to it.

(Disclaimer: Your humble author will be a guest of the organisers this year, eating and drinking everything in sight, and filling out a pile of losing tickets for the cleaners to deal with on Sunday).