FAST: Entrants in the Ron and Beryl McIntosh Memorial Bydand Handicap Benchmark 60 race down the home straight at the Narooma picnic races in 2013.
FAST: Entrants in the Ron and Beryl McIntosh Memorial Bydand Handicap Benchmark 60 race down the home straight at the Narooma picnic races in 2013. Lucy Killip

History comes alive at Narooma picnic races

DROUGHT may have delayed the start of horse racing in area, but it has not dampened the excitement.

In 1965 the families around Cunnamulla planned the very first professional horse race on a field on a property south of the town.

It could have been the start of an outback legend. Instead, the drought sucked up all the feed.

They had to wait until the next year, 1966, for the first modern Narooma race meet.

They’d had amateur racing in the area for years, and gymkhanas, but the decision was made to bring in outsiders to supplement a flagging local amateur community.

And ever since they’ve been going strong, one of only two true country picnic meets in this area, according to Tannas Godfrey, a member of the Narooma races.

“The property is now council, but back in the day it was someone’s property,” she said.

“In much the same way as the Enngonia races, it’s one of those true picnic races.

“You get over 100 people there every year.”

Many are locals. Some of them, like Marcus Arthur, have been to every meet.

“I also think we’ve lost quite a few of these country race meets, so those that are left we try to hold onto,” he said.

But the march of progress continues.

STUNNING: Emily Geiger was winner of the Best Hat section of Fashions on the Field in 2013.
STUNNING: Emily Geiger was winner of the Best Hat section of Fashions on the Field in 2013. Lucy Killip

Like every race club in Australia, they’re putting on a real show, with fashions on the field, a live band (Golden Child), prizes, camping, a courtesy bus and all the creature comforts.

But it’s still a bit rough and ready.

“On one of the turns it’s quite angular, and we’ve basically had horses that have taken off and gone for home,” said Tannas.

“There’s been wins that nobody has been able to see, because nobody could see who crossed the line (through the dust).

“It’s very much that very old-school.”

One idiosyncrasy of the race is the direction: they race anti-clockwise.

“Otherwise we race into the setting sun,” Tannas said.

So come along this Saturday to the little field south of Cunnamulla and watch a true Australian legend.


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