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).