Brunette Races – Centenary Celebrations 17th – 20th June 2010

The A.B.C. Amateur Races are commonly known as the ‘Brunette Races’ because in recent years the event has been held on a racetrack located on Brunette Downs Station (on the Barkly Tableland, Northern Territory.

A.B.C. stands for the Barkly Tableland stations Alexandria, Brunette Downs and Creswell Downs – the stations involved in forming the original race club. From 1914 to 1949 the ABC Races were held beside the Rankine (or ‘Ranken’) River on NAPCo-owned Alexandria Station, Australia’s second largest cattle station. The race meeting then shifted back to neighbouring Brunette Downs; Australia’s largest pastoral lease and now owned by the AACo (there are larger properties, however these are made up of more than one pastoral lease). The third station involved in setting up the ABC Race Club, Creswell Downs, is now run as part of Walhallow Station. Walhallow is currently owned by Macquarie Bank’s Paraway Pastoral Company, a sponsor of the 2010 centenary celebrations, along with other pastoral company sponsors – the AACo and SK (S Kidman & Co), plus a range of other generously sponsoring businesses.

The best known annual ABC Amateur Race Club event is the four day ‘Brunette Races’ held in what is usually the coolest month of the year, June, when the evening ‘barkly breeze’ can be very chilly. There are two days of horse racing as well as a campdraft, rodeo, gymkhana and novelty events such as ‘Belle of the Barkly’, and evening events – including a children’s fancy dress competition. The first two days are more casual and mostly locals, whereas the two following days (over the weekend) tend to be more dress-up affairs attended by increased numbers of visitors. A campdraft, rodeo and gymkhana are also held in September each year.

The Brunette Races are well attended by NT station employees and owners, previous employees, regular city visitors (who fly in) and outback travellers (with 4wds and caravans) – and the centenary celebrations are bound to attract a huge number of ex-locals. The ABC Race Club committee has put a massive amount of work into preparing for the centenary celebrations. Organising any social function so far from large towns and cities requires a huge amount of forward planning and thorough organisation, as it’s not possible to pop down to the local shops for any last minute supplies.

For photographs of Alexandria and Brunette Downs Stations (and many other cattle stations), refer to the book ‘A Million Acre Masterpiece’. For more information on the Brunette Races, visit the A.B.C. Amateur Race Club website.

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