The iconic Birdsville Races have been postponed until 2022 due to COVID-19 concerns.
After abandoning the famous meeting in 2020, it was all systems go to return to its original date in September in 2021, but with multiple states around Australia in lockdown and Queensland having closed its border to those regions, the country meeting will be postponed until April 10-11, 2022.
While the rescheduling of dates means there will be no ‘Melbourne Cup of the outback’ in 2021, it does mean there will be two big meetings at Birdsville in 2022 – April and September.
“We have tried out best, but the health landscape and COVID outbreaks with this new delta variant have changed significantly in the past two months,” Birdsville Race Club president David Brook said.
“Our risk assessment was just too great, and we have a duty of care to our staff, the Birdsville community, ticket holders and the broader population to ensure we are responsible and cognoscente of the significant health risk facing the country.
“Postponing the Birdsville Races really was the only decision we could make at this time.”
Birdsville hosts a two-day carnival on the first weekend in September each year, and while the racing is the main attraction on the Friday and Saturday, the heart of the town, the Birdsville Hotel, is also a huge part of the weekend.
The postponement of the race meeting has been fully supported by major stakeholders in the area, with the General Manager of the Birdsville Hotel saying they “fully support the decision” and the Birdsville Police Station saying they “will always work with stakeholders to ensure the ongoing health and safety of their communities”.
Moving the date to later in 2021 was considered by the club, but due to extreme heats in the middle of the Simpson Desert and the ongoing nature of COVID challenges, it was decided the best move would be to run two Birdsville Cups in 2022.
“We wanted to be sure we moved to a date that allowed plenty of time to bring this current outbreak under control, for vaccination levels to continue to grow and borders to open,” said Birdsville Race Club vice president Gary Brook.
“Unfortunately going any later this year would be far too hot for the horses and our camping ticket holders.
“Our unique racetrack is in the Simpson Desert, and the temps regularly hit 45-50 degrees as we head into summer.
“We’ve gone with April next year when we’ll have lovely temperate weather similar to what we have in September.”
In the meeting’s 139-year history, it has only been cancelled twice; once in 2007 due to the equine influenza outbreak, and in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Ticket holders for the original 2021 meeting will remain valid for the April race meeting, while additional tickets will be released in October 2021.
As for the meeting which will be run in September 2022, those tickets will go on sale early next year.
Over 7,000 visitors from around the country attend the races each year at Birdsville, which has a population of just 115.