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Australia 2007

Kooroorinya, at the Oakley Amateur Picnic Races

Leg details

May 10 - May 13, 2007

Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

We drive into the Kooroorinya Camp Ground in the afternoon of Thursday, May 10th 2007.
As we had been the only ones on the road up to now we don't know what to expect; nobody? 20 people? 200 people? Are we the only externals?
Luckily we immediately spot Cam amongst a group of people.

Cam shows us where they are and ask us to park right beside the Tindall's tents.
They have 2 tents, one for Cam and Sharon and one for the "boys" Ross, Scott and Paul.

Most of the families have been coming to the races for a long time.
Traditionally they go to the same spot on the camp ground every year. Concrete slabs and permanent tent poles have been set up.
The slab behind the Tindall tents used to be for Cam's parents. But now that they have retired they don't come to the races that often anymore.

Some families even have erected little tin houses and sheds where they will live over the race days.
The tents and some of the furniture are stored on site in one of the large halls, the bedding and the rest is brought along.
A lot of effort has been put into it if one considers that all is for just one occasion every year .... but it also shows the importance the races have in everybody's agenda.

First thing that has to be done is fixing the power line. Since they know that the installations sometimes are not necessarily up to spec, they use 110V~ on the camp. They don't consider this voltage to be dangerous .....
A regular member has come with a higher vehicle and has ripped the line down with the truck.
It is not the first time the lines have been torn to pieces as one can see looking at all the previous repairs..

Ross, Ruedi and Cam join forces, Ross climbing on the horse truck, Ruedi finding cable to fix the missing part and Cam organising and assisting.
The tools are in high demand, hammer to bang in pegs, SwissTool to modify an extension cord that does not fit…

Then Cam takes us on a tour of the camp and introduces us to many of his friends.

The water for the camp's toilet and showers is pumped up from the creek.
A "donkey" heats the water for the showers.

It is all set up with much love; flowers, soap, all essentials, everything is available in the toilets and the showers.
All is neat and works.
One can tell that this place is cherished and the tradition passed on from generation to generation.

We meet the gentleman that is responsible for feeding the "donkey" and keeping the warm water flowing.
He tells us that he had set up the fire and left for a while.
When he came back he went into his caravan and found that the power was not working. Ah well, one can wash hands in the dark.
Then he found that the water was not running either.

Surprised he went out and checked the backside of his caravan only to find that all was black and scorched up to the tyres of his caravan.
A spark from the "donkey's" fire must have ignited the dry grass.
He had been very lucky. The fire must have first destroyed the cable, then the water hose. This enabled the water to extinguish the fire, thus preventing the fire to set the caravan ablaze.

We continue on our round down to the horses' paddock .
The horses at the races all are ex-racehorses.
Race horses usually are fed with grain. At the picnic races only horses that are fed with hay and grass are allowed to start.
It takes approx. 2 years until the horse's stomachs have adjusted to the new feed and the horses are fit enough to race again.
The distances raced are also adjusted to the different feed of the horses and are only between 800 and 1 600 m.
The minimal weight of the jockey, including saddle and equipment, is set to 72 kg, thus also allowing ordinary, local riders to race their horses.

We also meet Sam Brown.
Sam is from "Lammemoor" Station. His grandfather donated the land where the races are held.

Sam will be the starter at the races and invites us to come along to the starting line tomorrow and see what happens there.
We are all excited to get the chance to look at the things behind the scenes.

When asked what the bell in his hands was for he explained that it will be used tomorrow.
Jockeys have to have a specific weight at the race. After the race has been finished the jockey of the winning horse has to go and have his weight checked.
Ringing of the bell will announce the correct weight, confirming the win.

He also has the flag that should be mounted on the tower.

Even though Sam is pretty tall he is not tall enough to get the flag onto the flagpole.
Ruedi passes the ladder up to the small first floor. Then Ruedi holds the ladder as Sam climbs up to be able to reach to the top of the flagpole (Ruedi recons, he would have wet his pants standing on that ladder).
The accident insurance would not be very impressed with this set-up, but all goes well and soon the Australian flag waves in the evening wind.

The sun sets beautifully with the clouds that are hanging around.

When going to the Ladies loo Susi realises that one of the toilets does not flush properly. She alerts Sam who fetches John Teakle, this year's president of the race committee, to investigate the matter.
When the men open the water tank to establish if the water flows is ok two small green frogs are startled and flee the scene of the turmoil.
The water flow into the tank as expected so it must be something else.
Without further ado John dismantles the pipes from the tank to the toilet bow and finds the reason of the problem: a large frog must have been living in the tank during peaceful months of the year. Now, with all this flushing, he must have drowned in the tank and had been swept into the pipe, thus blocking the flow of water.
The men have a good laugh at Susi's puzzled look ... this is part of life in the country! It could have been worse; it could have been a snake ....

Dinner is served in the large hall.
"Robbo's Catering" team dishes up some very nice food.

For some of the younger ones drinking is a main part of the planned entertainment and the party begins at the bar.
We hear Ross bringing Paul over to the tent during the night .... later on they drive one of the LandCruisers a bit further away from the tents so they can continue partying with some music ....

On Friday morning all clouds have dispersed and the sun is shining.
Its time to have a look at the camp.

There are still people arriving and setting up camp, hose floats being driven to the paddock.

Some more connections to the electric system have been "established", some of them are pretty adventures.

There is not much time left to write mails.
We don't want to miss any of the action at the races!

We head to the main hall and study the memorabilia of previous races and also the decoration.

A local artist painted the decoration for the dining hall ...

... horses from all sorts of materials have been crafted ....

...the table of presents is well-stacked.
Again we are impressed with how much care all is set up.
Well done!

The history of the club is impressive too.
In 2007 the Oakley Amateur Picnic Race Club Inc. celebrates 90 years of Picnic Racing!

The club was founded in 1917 as a result of a meeting at the Spring Hill cattle yards and registered on September 15th 1917.
The first race meeting was held near Nooracoo Waterhole on “Shirley”.

The following year the club moved to Ewan Plains and raced there until 1929.
A race book from 1933 is still available.

Then the race was moved to Kooroorinya, the present site of the club 's racecourse, 60 kms South Prairie on the Prairie - Muttaburra Road.

A list of races shows that in drought years, the depression and also during the war the race meeting was not held.

The Kooroorinya falls on Tower Hill Creek which was located in the original property “Lamamoor” taken up by Robert Christison in the 1860's.
From the book “Christison of Lamamoor”:
“Christison told of the Aboriginal names of the noble chain of waterholes that form the head of Tower Hill Creek, the falls – Kooroorinya, like the roar of its waters in flood, above, Teekaloonda, of the sheep washing”

These photographs are believed to have been taken during the first race meeting of the Oakley Amateur Picnic Race Club held at this sight in 1930.
This meeting was restricted to one days racing because of the rain.

There is also a humorous text to be found ...



Traditionally Tribal Legends are handed down from generation to generation verbally about the campfires at ceremonial meetings.
What's New!!!
Let me try to pass on this one without any offence or embarrassment intended.
In the dream time of Kooroorinya when women were reserved and straight of back, when skirts never rose above the ground and men were curteous and honourable. A group of members were gathered at the horse yards on Friday morning inspecting the horses, discussing condition, and form etc, as they still do today.

Among them was one Bert Harrington of Ewen Plains known affectionately as "BULL", a definite character and born rebel. It occurred that "Bull" passed wind loudly with gusto either intentionally or by accident, I doubt it would leave worried him a damn which.
At the same time and place, and well within earshot unfortunately was a group of ladies straight of back, accompanied by one George Bardon of Lammermoor, definitely an honourably and curtious gentleman.

Immediately following a short period of deathly silence that followed, Mr Bardon, to cover his mortal Embarrassment, loudly and pompously demanded "Bull" should apologise for his uncouth behaviour and was told where to go in no uncertain manner. In a matter of seconds the battle fines were clearly drawn. Not too many years before a duel would have been arranged to settling a matter of honour. I have heard that they arranged to meet on their mutual

boundary after the meeting to settle the matter by seeing who could beat the stuffing out of whom, though I'm not sure if this ever come to pass.

However the incident was widely discussed during the race meeting and the camp was clearly divided on the matter. It was the custom then as now, that matters of importance concerning the club were discussed and democratically decided upon at the Annual General meeting held at that time on Sunday morning after the race meeting.

The A.G.M. duly came to pass with neither side showing any likely hood of compromise, most probably aggravated by alcoholic remorse. The debate raged long and loud neither side giving an inch. Adventually tiring of the endless debate one George Walker, senior member of the club, and humorous of note rose to address the meeting. His opening remarks were "It would appear our much valued club is to be blown apart by the fierce passing of wind". Huge uproarious laughter erupted and no doubt defused a very tense situation, George's next comment was "How long is this going to go on", and to emphasise his point repeated “How Long!". A younger and irreverent member of the club, one Benn Brown, was awoken from a short alcohol nap by George's loud outburst and past the comment just loud enough so all present could hear “As long as man has a hole in his backside!!!!". At this point the meeting dissolved into uncontrolled mirth and the whole pompous episode was defused. Almost. Though George Bardon was the closest resident to Kooroorinya, neither he or any member of his family ever set foot on the racecourse grounds again.
Consider what some people of that era were prepared to sacrifice in the name of valour.

The slogan of the races is "At Kooroorinya we're not here for a LONG time, BUT we are here for a GOOD TIME!!" to celebrate country racing Outback style.

We head down to the paddock.
A blacksmith offers his service. Some of the horses are equipped with new horse shoes.

This stallion has other paddock services to offer ...

The first race is set to start at 10:30 AM; there is lots to be done prior.

The race horses get registered for the races.
The secretary is wearing a fancy dress and hat.

There are many different races where they can compete:
- maiden race (horses that never have won) over 800 m
- restricted 2 (only 2 wins) over 800 m
- open ones over 800, 1000, 1400 m
- restricted 4 (only 4 wins) over 1000 and 1200 m
The trainers and owners have make the tough decision of which horse to let take part on what race.

The betting office is getting ready for the customers. Each bet on a horse costs 1 dollar.
The lady also displays a fancy hat.

The starting list is published on the backboard. Everybody writes down the details into their race book.
Sam also need the list as he has to check that the correct horses are present at the start.

The audience is starting to arrive, many dressed up in their fancy dress and hat.
But we get informed that the big day will be tomorrow!

Even the little ones are dressed up and busy betting on their favourite horse ...

There are plenty of activities going on for the kids.
Some of them are not really impressed and rather stay in their stroller ...

The tower is ready, the caller is already informing about the happenings of the day.

The horse stewards and the ambulance are ready too.
They will go out with each group of riders and ensure that all goes well.
The ambulance will follow right after the riders during the whole race to be on site as quickly as possible should a fall happen.

Race 1 is a "maiden" race, 4 horses are at the starting line.

Sam is all dressed up and ready to go too. We go out with him.

Sam has to ensure all is correct at the start line and all comply to the rules of such a "flying" start.
The horses have to line up in the correct order some 10 - 20 meters behind the start line.
Then they start moving slowly against the start line; hopefully all at more or less the same speed.
Only if they are all (more or less) in one line, the starter drops the flag and screams "GO" and the race is on.
Else the whole procedure is repeated.
The start is not necessarily at the start line but at the point where all horses are in one line.

The starter's moves are all observed from the tower and narrated to the public.

Cam saddles up "Kalinga Parker".
As the Tindall colours for the jockey are purple and green cap Cam has bought matching purple bridles for the horses.

"Kalinga Parker" has never won a race at Kooroorinya so far and will start with 3 other horses in the maiden race over 800 m.
It only finishes 3rd. It will have another chance tomorrow.

Race 2 is "restricted 2".
Ross and Cam get "Tingos Return" ready.
The horse is nervous and playing up. Sharon thinks that it will not run well.

After saddling up the horse is shown to the public so they can make up their mind on which they want to bet on.
It is funny to see the ladies in the fancy dresses and shoes walking the horses through the dust and horse droppings.

Susi again goes to the starting point with Sam.
With 8 horses it is difficult to get them in a proper starting line.
"Tingos Return" is so nervous that it causes a false start and all horses have to be realigned again.
When the race is finally started "Tingos Return" misses the start.
Even though it makes up for much of the lost ground with only 800 m of racing distance it has no chance to pass the rest of the field.
Sharon recons they should put the horse on longer races next time so should this happen again the strong horse has a longer stretch to catch up to the rest.

After this race its lunch break and the activities shift to the bar and dining hall.

During the break Calcuttas are held.
A race gets previously defined as "Calcutta race". All horses of that race participate in the Calcutta betting.
During lunchtime tickets are sold, each containing the name of one of the participating horses of that race.
It follows a betting, where one can "buy" a horse. If one holds a ticket of that horse, he only pays have of the betting value. This of course helps to increase the horses' value.
The winner of the betting will earn a certain percentage of all the money earned in all the betts, should his horse win.
We did not really understand all the details and had a hard time finding somebody that really understands how it works ... but it seems to be fun and that is all that matters, isn't it?

We were impressed with the speaking ability of the man that held the Calcuttas.

Click here to view the movie.

The next race is the Kooroorinya Cup, an open race over 1400 m. It is the most prestigious race of the weekend, also called "the big cup".
All Tindall "boys" show up as "A Promise" is saddled up.
It should win .... but "A Promise" only comes in second ....

In the next race no Tindall horse is listed.
But the one after is the big one .... "House of Horrors" goes to the start of the 1000 m open race ... and wins!

Look how proud they are ... well done!
(... and we are proud too, as we are at the races with the Tindalls, so "our" horse won. Yeah, yeah, yeah!!!)
Click here to listen to our race commentator Sharon :-) .......

Somehow the other horses must have felt that House of Horrors" has stolen the show for the day.
"Kalinga Town" comes in as 5th and "Kalinga Tash" 3rd in the last two races of the day.
But that doesn't really matter anymore; there is enough reason for a party today.

The first day of race is closed with an acrobatic display of three young men on their motorbikes.

Later on we are allowed to help with taking the horses out to grass.
For us it is a great feeling, being there with the other ones, holding the rains of a horse, just being part of it all.
We are so proud of being here and allowed into all of this.

Cam shows up with a bucket full of cold beers and a tray full of Cola'n'Rum.
After having served everybody he just sits and looks at his horses .... what a great day this has been!

Another beautiful sunset out in the large and open country of outback Queensland.
What a life!

When queuing up for dinner outside of the dining hall Ross shows us how all man deposit their hats on the shutters of the window ...
Well, it is not appropriate for a gentleman to wear a hat in a room full of ladies!

Friday night's entertainment is provided by the band "Bindi & The Sneekers".
Some more activity is happening at the bar that will be open until 4 AM .... another late night for the Tindall "boys" .....

We wake up to a cloudy day. When looking out the window and greeting Cam and Sharon they ask if we feel like helping with the horses again as the "boys" are sound asleep ...?
What a question! We are up and ready in less than five minutes.

Again we get the placid horses. Even though we have no clue about what we are doing we feel sooooo important out there.
Better not think about what we would do should one of the horses decide to go its own way ...

After finishing "work" we have deserved a breakfast with the trimmings ... egg, bacon, pancakes, toast, juice, etc. etc.

Then we go down to the falls, which are just a few meters outside the camp.
This year they are dry. Thanks to a very little dam there is enough water left in the creek to serve the camp ground.
If one compares with the pictures above, when they had the floods ...

Today is the fancy dress day. They are obviously inspired by the Melbourne cup with its lavish costumes.
During the day the best dressed people will be selected and prizes given in the various categories.

The secretary again excels with another fancy dress and hat.

But she is not the only one; many other ladies have also taken their hats along to the races.

The flies are not part of the original design of the hat ....

... some more ladies ....

... Sharon .... today in the paddock with her fancy shoes on ....
Sharon explains that it's the only time during the year were they get the chance to wear other than work clothes.

Today there is much more tension and anticipation.
Horses are judged by their performance yesterday.

Ruedi is very busy creating statistics so Susi has a better chance with her betting in the first race.
According to the statistic Tindall's "Kalinga Tash" should be the winner, but Delahunty's "Tornado Gold" is very strong too.
To solve this difficulty Susi decides to bet on both horses ...

Everybody is ready .... Sharon is all concentrated ..... it is a neck-and-neck race that at the end is won by "Abagnale", "Kalinga Tash" coming in second.
Susi gets good money for the second place of "Kalinga Tash" ... (it must have been at least 50 cents over all).

The second race is easy; it is a "maiden" race over 1000 m.

As there are only two horses left that never have won a race here Cam and Sharon's "Kalinga Parker" has a 50% / 50% chance of winning ... and wins the race.
When Susi asks if they have some more "maiden" horses at Darr River Station to compete in next years race Sharon's grins and says they will certainly have to find one until then ...

So far today has been a splendid day for the Tindalls.

The next race is an open race over 1600 m. Sharon would have loved to see "Tingos Return" race in this one as it is a very long race for grass feed horses.
But the Cam decides that "A Promise" will start.
Ross is also confused and Susi has to double check that he is actually saddling the correct horse.

Cam gives the jockey last instructions on up to where he is supposed to hold back and where he can let the horse go.

And the plan works, "A Promise" wins by at least 4 lengths!
The surprise is perfect, the Tindalls beam with pride ... even the "boys" pose on the winners' photo ....
Well done!

The next race is a "restricted 4" over 800 m.
Cam has "Tingos Return" starting in this race, and again the horse messes up things ..... it is just too unpredictable.
Well, it will get its chance again next year.

Then "the" race comes, the open 1000 m race with "House of Horrors" at the starting line.

Will it win again?
According to Ruedi's statistic it will encounter fierce competition in "Bobs County" from Delahunty .....

Again Cam gives instructions to the jockey. Lets see if they work ...

In a nail-biting finish "House of Horrors" come from behind and wins the race with by one length ....
Click here to view the movie.

Now it is definitely time for a drink at the bar .... Cam, Scott and Paul look pleased and relaxed.

Outside the dining hall the local school has set up a cappuccino stand.
The class teacher gives a hand every so often.

After the lunch break the last two races are held.
Tindall's "Kalani Boy" doesn't make it into the first 3 but "Kalinga Town" comes in third.

Ruedi's statistic very clearly shows the winning stable:
1. Tindall with 4 first , 3 second and 2 third places
2. Owens with 4 first, 2 third places
3. Teakle with 2 first, 2 third places.

In the evening the prices are presented.

Ross and Cam collect the prices for the Tindall horses.

There is also a price for the most successful jockey of the meeting.
There is a tie between the Tindall and Manwaring jockeys, both having won the same amount of races over the two days.
it is decided that will both get the sought-after whip.

Then the "Diva of Design", the "Man of the Meeting" and "Miss Tiny Tot & Master Tiny Tot of the Turf" are elect.

Later on "Bindi & The Sneekers" play again, there is a "Jiving Competition" and the "Kooroorinya Waltzing Cup Competition" ..... and the bar is open until the wee hours of morning ....

We decide to skip the entertainment and work on the pictures as we want to present them to Cam and Sharon and also to Sam and family as a small "Thanks" for this wonderful weekend.

On Sunday morning, 13 May 2007, its cleanup time and we give a hand too.
All that is left from the tent city are beds, some bedside tables and chest of drawers to be stored away for another year ...

Ruedi asks Sam for some fresh water and is directed to the rainwater tank behind the kitchen.
Not seeing the danger under the grass he sinks the OKA into the soft ground up to the diff but luckily manages to puss it out again.
That would have been quite an embarrassing situation.

Sam invites us to stay at “Lammermoor” Station but we decline as we want to hit the road again.

Dear Cam, Sharon and family, dear Sam and family and all at the races:
Thanks so much for having us and giving us the chance to experience this beautiful atmosphere, the friendly people, the fun.

We hope to come back to the races next year or latest the year after.
Ruedi's sister and husband will be travelling Australia with us for the next two years and we will take them to the races at Picnic Kooroorinya, this is a MUST.



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Last updated: Friday, 08.02.2019 8:46 PM

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