When we first arrived in Enngonia, one thing that struck me as strange was that, apart from the Oasis Hotel, there were no other business premises in town and yet they had their own race track – complete with grandstands, yards, kitchen areas, toilet blocks and all the other paraphernalia needed to hold a race meeting. http://enngoniaraces.wixsite.com/enngonia-race-club
Of course, I’ve since learned that outback race tracks are actually not that uncommon and towns such as Louth or Birdsville benefit tremendously from the revenue raised. In fact, these race meetings probably account for the busiest week of the year with thousands of visitors driving or flying in from all over Australia.
So in July this year, with not a cloud in the sky (ironically, the races are sometimes cancelled due to rain) we enjoyed our first race meeting in Enngonia. Thanks to a very efficient racing committee, the grounds had been tidied, seating had been spruced and there was a BBQ and bar, mobile TAB, on-course bookmakers, activities for the kids, food and drink outlets as well as post- races entertainment.
The Calcutta auction, which took place at the Oasis Hotel the night before the races almost drew as big a crowd as race day. The rules of Calcutta auctions vary but basically, the horses are raffled and if you’re lucky enough to win a horse, you become its ‘owner’. Horses are then auctioned and the owner can choose to keep his horse – by buying it for half the auction price – or sell it at auction and keep half the money. The rest of the money goes into a pot and, after the Enngonia Cup, whoever bought the winning horse gets a large pre-determined share of the pot – believe me there’s usually quite a lot of money at stake!
The whole weekend was a rare occasion for locals and visitors to put on their glad rags and enjoy a couple of days of festivities and, according to Jed and Nigel, everyone managed to do so without getting locked up!