If you hear Broken Hill mentioned you generally wouldn’t think of horse racing. Percy Brookfield, Last Cab to Darwin, Tex Walker, yes, but horse racing!? Well they race twice a year up there, the St Patrick’s meeting, of course in March, with a further race ran in October. It is the former I focus on in this article.
They first ran this race day back in 1966, thus this year was the 52nd running. Apparently the idea originated from the local Roman Catholic parish; that link between Catholicism and horse racing once again gaining credence. It is an 8 race card with the feature being the Outback Cup, run over 8 furlongs. When first ran in 1966 the Cup winner, fittingly, was Marist Boy.
With my good mate in horsey pastimes, Bob Dallarosa, we jaunted up to Broken Hill. Over the years March has seen us attend different tracks across NSW, such as Ardlethan and Berrigan, but Broken Hill was a little bit further out. Flying there safely with REX, we spent time investigating this marvelous city, the first heritage rated city in Australia. So much to see and do! Broken Hill is a veritable entrance to the Australian Outback, as there’s not much past there.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, in preparation for the big day. Our day started with a walk to the cemetery to visit the grave of Percy Brookfield, who had been the MLA for Sturt in the tumultuous times of the early 20th century. Interesting,inspirational figure. Next the races. On the track our vantage points were obtained. A big crowd in attendance: 8-10,000? The track was a dirt track watered, and swept, after after each race. The first race finally arrived. Set against a marvelous back drop, emphasising the natural beauty of the Australian outback, a three horse field set off: there was a late scratching that ended up running off the track, to its own veritable never never. In a piece of symmetry the winner was 19 lengths clear of the second who was itself 19 1/2 lengths clear of the third. This set the tone for a intriguing days racing, the highlight of which was race 6 the Outback Cup.
The favourite here was last year’s winner Alpha Auriga. Trained in Swan Hill by Nathan Hobson it had ran twice at Broken Hill, saluting both times. On board was hoop Chris Nicholl, the rider in both its previous wins here. But not this day as the Adelaide visitor It’s Fred came home. Alpha Auriga dead heated for second with Honor The Moment. South Australian apprentice Justin Huxtable rode the winner on a day he won’t forget for a long time. Four wins, including a treble to close the day, highlighted a superb days riding by this young lad. Kayla Cross was another hoop having a good day, riding two winners.
Watching Stacey Metcalfe ride there emphasised the distance hoops travel for work, as I’d seen her the previous Sunday riding on Cup Day in Corowa, quite a few K’s away. It would be remiss not to mention on Corowa Cup Day, female hoops rode 7 of the 8 winners that day. Racing is becoming more and more a sport where females can and do excel. Whilst we’re on gender, congratulations to Paula Trenwith who trained the Cup winner. Paula now is equal second on the table of the Outback Cup winners.
I do wonder why a meeting that has an 8 race card, and a huge turnout, does not get TAB status. I’ve been to numerous smaller meetings that have TAB status, but I do scratch my head at which meetings do/don’t get granted TAB status. Oh well, I’m just a mug punter, why should I think?
Congratulations to all those involved in making the Broken Hill, St Patrick’s Race Meeting 2017 a great success. Broken Hill is a long way away from Melbourne, but it’s on the bucket list as a place I’d like to get back to.