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Darwin Cup

International racing fans might not have heard of the Darwin Cup, but it is a racing event to be cherished. Darwin, at the top of the Australian continent, has a rather unique culture (some might just say it's 20yrs behind) but that's part of the charm. At this time of year, there won't have been a drop of rain for three months and it will have been 32C every day in that period, give or take two degrees. Rather than a traditional turf track, the racecourse is an oil-based sand surface which suits local conditions perfectly - it handles the heat and also the heavy rains of the wet season. When I arrived in Darwin to work for a bookmaker, there were two days of rains which led to heavy flooding in Katherine, a couple of hours south of Darwin. The racetrack had no problem handling the torrential downpours - they were still running 1:23 for 1400m!


20,000 people squeeze into Fannie Bay Racecourse for the Darwin Cup, which is traditionally held on the first Monday in August. 20,000 people mightn't sound like a lot, but when the local population is about 60,000, and Darwin is a long, long way from anywhere, it's a huge crowd!

The racing mightn't be the highest standard (the Northern Territory horse population is full of cast-offs from the southern states of Australia), but the Darwin Cup carnival is a fantastic event with a very strong bookmakers' ring. The racing schedule is done right too, with the Cup being the last race of the day at 5.30pm, followed by post-racing festivities at the track - so there's no need to start ridiculously early like they do on Melbourne Cup day, when many are passed out by the big race. It also gives the crowd plenty of time to arrive, and recover from the previous night's hangover....

If you've never been, it is a fantastic event to attend. Can't wait to get back there again myself....

For those in the UK, Darwin will be shown on the overnight Australian racing coverage on ATR, but I can't guarantee they won't switch to the teleshopping before the Cup!

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