Every Boxing Day for well over the last 10 years I have had the pleasure of being the race broadcaster for what has to be Australia’s most picturesque race track. At first glance the once a year picnic race circuit is a little difficult to spot in places. However, if you look hard enough or climb up the ladder with me you will see brief glimpses of running rail amongst lush Gum trees and beautiful Liquid Amber that helps set the scene on an undulating course that is arguably Australia’s most botanical. It is without doubt the momentary lapses of – “where are they?” that provides a real point of difference to a race meeting like no other. An uphill run in the home straight that tests the fitness of any horse and rider guarantees all onlookers a great sight, of the winning combination galloping toward the finishing line.
The race meeting itself is run by a club of dedicated local volunteers who band together to keep grass roots level racing alive, presenting a day well removed from locked in expensive dining packages and other added on expenses. The ability for you to bring your own – both food and alcohol helps keep costs down, another contributing factor that helps you relax, either under the trees or basking in the sun in your own deck chair. Camper vans are not an uncommon sight, providing a summer holiday feel at the races and always most welcome.
Most importantly it is the racing at a meeting like Drouin that is the star. An opportunity for high weights or amateur riders of a Corinthian standard to display their ability as a jockey and true level of horsemanship given some of the unique aspects that present at a picnic meeting. Horses too, have their moment in the sun as well and not just the sunshine of a Victorian country summer. Some horses that may not be quite city class but still with plenty of zest, relish tracks such as Drouin as many animals become bored with the same routine and scenery. Equally, a chance for a victory also freshens up a racing thoroughbred and provides new found confidence that they carry beyond a non-tab engagement, with connections also an opportunity for celebration.
If you are looking for something to do with family and friends next Boxing day, pack your Christmas leftovers, maybe take your barbecue and enjoy the Christmas wind down at the annual Drouin Picnic Races. A trackside date with no pretences just a great day’s racing, like it used to be.
Article by – Victoria Shaw. Race caller & HH Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Arabian Racing Journalist of the Year 2015.