Get trackside Saturday morning for the start of the camel race heats. They’re run over 400m and camels placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd will progress to the 1000m heats held Saturday afternoon.
To progress all the way to Sunday’s Final of the Thirsty Camel Cup, camels will have competed over 400m and again over 1000m. The Final for the big prize money is run over 1500m and you’ll be barracking for your favourite for a little over 2 ½ minutes before they lumber over the finish line.
There are bookies trackside to take your punt. You can study the camels’ form through the heats, or perhaps just choose the best name or racing colours, but many back a camel with a bit of character or from a story shared from its racing history. And there are plenty of stories and characters to be inspired by. The camels, jockeys, trainers and handlers have converged at Boulia from all over Australia, with some travelling from as far as South Australia and Northern Territory.
Some come and marvel at the camels, seeing them as mighty 800 kg ‘ships of the desert’, who lumber along, bellow, stubbornly refuse to move and sometimes race the wrong way around the track. There is a provision in the racing rules that unruly camels can be started in a separate barrier on the outside of the track, or ultimately be disqualified for these very characteristics!
However others will come and are enchanted, lost in their new found love of these lovely long legged beauties, who gaze at you through a veil of gorgeous lashes and race proudly for their doting jockeys.
A few facts:
The minimum age of racing camels is 3 years and bulls are allowed to race as long as they are not in season.
The racetrack is a U shape, with camels racing clockwise.
18 is the maximum number of camels per race.
The sport is not without its dangers and jockeys must wear protective head gear.
The jockeys sit on small saddle pads behind the camel's hump.
There are no reigns for the jockeys to hold - the camels steer themselves down the racetrack!
BEHIND THE RACES
There are plenty of stories and characters behind the races, like jockey Glenda Sutton from Shepparton, who raced in the Middle East before returning to Australia to buy her own camels. Glenda has taken home plenty of trophies from Boulia, but is remembered just as much by some for kisses she lavishes on her hump backed best friends.
Keep an eye on the Oakfield Team from Newcastle, New South Wales. They took a clean sweep with wins at the races in 2018 in a remarkable fashion and it will be fascinating to see what they come out with in 2019.
Also ones to watch are our very own local camel trainers Dannileah Stewart and Ronnie Callope, who race camels ‘Spike’, ‘Marley’ and ‘Wason’.
Boulia Camel Races Inc
PO Box 70
Boulia Qld 4829
M 0428 581 874
M 0429 434 279