Desert Racing with the The St Pats Day Cup
The Outback Cup, also known as the St Pat’s Day Cup celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and as usual the annual event proved to be one of the highlights of the social calendar for residents of the city of Broken Hill.
Despite being in a high desert climate in the New South Wales outback, more than 1,000km from Sydney and over 500km from Adelaide, the closest major city, Broken Hill has a population of around 18,000 people, thanks to its enormous mineral wealth. Not many people know that the “BH” in the name of global mining giant BHP Billiton stands for Broken Hill, as the multinational grew out of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, founded in 1885.
The site has been the source of so much silver, zinc and lead, among other minerals, that the “Broken Hill” after which the settlement and mining operation were originally named no longer exists; it has been completely mined away. Although the city has no permanent source of water, mining in the area is still profitable enough to support a fair-sized community with disposable income and a thirst for entertainment, as well as a seasonal tourist trade, which helps explain the perennial popularity of the St Pats Day Cup.
Broken Hill’s Dirt Track
Horseracing began in Broken Hill in the 1940s, initially using horses that had been imported for work on the mines. The Broken Hill St Patrick’s Race Club was formed in 1965, at the instigation of local trainer John Toms. Toms’ aim was to stimulate thoroughbred racing in the area and at the same time offer financial support to poverty-stricken local Catholic schools. Given the harsh climate, a dirt track made much more sense than turf, and the St Patrick’s Race Club course remains grass-free to this day.
The annual St Pat’s Day Cup, also instituted in 1965, takes place on the Saturday two weeks before Easter. It is a 1,600-metre flat race, with total prize money of AU$150,000, making it one of the richest races in Australia. To date, the Broken Hill St Pat’s Day Cup has won two awards for excellence from the NSW Country Racing Council, and it was also awarded the “Best Community Event” title by the Keep Australia Beautiful Council in 2000. It has become an integral part of the social and economic well-being of New South Wales’ far western region.
Brimming Takes 2015 Title
The 2015 St Pat’s Day Cup, the 50th time the race was run, proved to be another gala event. It took place on Saturday 14 March, drawing a crowd of about 8,000 people. This year, the Outback Cup’s A$35,000 first-prize money was won by Brimming, a six-year-old gelding.
Trained by Morphetville trainer Gordon Carter and ridden by apprentice jockey Zac Spain, Brimming finished so closely ahead of the 2013 winner (and 2014 runner-up) Tresette, that a photo finish was required to ascertain the result. Trainer Carter attributed the narrow win to Brimming’s “big boof head”, quipping that when he was s in a photo, he generally won’t lose.