Camels and crowds make tracks to far west Queensland

Camels and crowds make tracks to far west Queensland


Life & Style
Glenda Sutton won the 2019 Bedourie Cup on Hajime, making it her 38th cup victory. Photo: Shelly Dillon

Glenda Sutton won the 2019 Bedourie Cup on Hajime, making it her 38th cup victory. Photo: Shelly Dillon

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This time of year, outback Queensland comes alive. Keeping locals and visitors entertained recently was the Bedourie Camel Races.

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It has been keeping locals entertained and attracting visitors to the town for 21 years, and this year the Bedourie Camel Races once again had the crowd enthralled.

The 2019 Bedourie Cup was won by Hajime, trained and ridden by renowned Shepparton conditioner Glenda Sutton, and in doing so set an Australian record of 32.43 seconds for the 400 metre journey.

"We travel to about four or five camel races each year. This is my 21st year of racing, so it has taken me that long to set an Australian record. I can't believe it," Glenda said.

In 1998, she travelled to the United Arab Emirates to learn to race camels. It was there she fell in love with the animal.

"If you show them you care then they'll try for you, I genuinely love them and they know," she said.

"It's funny someone said to me 'you live in your caravan surrounded by these camels. What if you had a mansion?'. I said I would still live with them in a caravan."

Glenda owns 18 camels, all males and mostly caught from the bush or rescued in Queensland, the NT and NSW.

"This little fella that I've just won on now, I mustered him out of the bush and I brought him through his training. He's 18 years old now," she said.

The win was Glenda's 38th Cup victory.

"I would like to stay in racing until I've won 300 races, so I'm on my 261 wins, but that's a big ask because I'm nearly 45 years old," she said.

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart (right) presents the blue ribbon to one of the winners at Bedourie Camel Races. Photo: Shelly Dillon.

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart (right) presents the blue ribbon to one of the winners at Bedourie Camel Races. Photo: Shelly Dillon.

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart is president of the Bedourie Golf & Leisure Club, which runs the event. Chasing sponsorship and recruiting volunteers are all part of the gig.

"It's such a great event and means so much to this little town," he said.

"We took on the camel races to help raise funds to build our club house, it's been a great venture to get it up and running."

And the winter festivities have not come to an end yet for Bedourie.

"I'm president of the Bedourie Amateur Race Club, we have our race meeting as part of the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival, it's called 'Dress the Desert Pink', to raise awareness for breast cancer," he said.

"Then I take that cap off and we have Handlebars and Horns, which combines motorbikes and bull riding."

Maryann and Tom Johnson, Innisfail, Grant and Helen Little, Tasmania, get lucky on the pig racing at Bedourie. Photo: Hayley Warden.

Maryann and Tom Johnson, Innisfail, Grant and Helen Little, Tasmania, get lucky on the pig racing at Bedourie. Photo: Hayley Warden.

Camel racing wasn't the only thing keeping people entertained - pig racing, damper making, a golf competition, wood chopping and foot races were also the order of the day.

Noah's Thoroughbred Racing Pigs proved popular with spectators.

"People love the atmosphere and watching those little pigs run around, I think they're more excited about the pigs than the camels. As long as they're here enjoying themselves that's the main thing," Mr Stewart said.

Tasmania's Grant and Helen Little, along with two other travelling couples, purchased two pigs at auction in the 'Double Smoked Ham Grand National', winning themselves $890 in the process.

"We've never been to camel and pig races before, and why wouldn't you come here, it's a laugh, it's a great atmosphere, it's great for the community and supports the locals," Mr Little said.

"If we didn't win it didn't matter. It really was an awesome bit of fun."

Noah's Thoroughbred Racing Pigs owner Kevin "the pig whisperer" Kiley run the pre-race auction at Bedourie.

Noah's Thoroughbred Racing Pigs owner Kevin "the pig whisperer" Kiley run the pre-race auction at Bedourie.

Originally from Victoria's Mallee region and the youngest of nine boys, Noah's Thoroughbred Racing Pigs owner Kevin "the pig whisperer" Kiley now calls Warwick home.

This year's Melbourne Cup will mark 19 years in the pig racing business.

"I took over an animal farm called Noah's Farm. My mate owned it and I did a bit of work for him. Tragically he was killed in 2000, and I bought the business off his wife," Kevin said.

"My first job were pig races in the heart of Brisbane on Melbourne Cup day 2000.

"I had a spray can and put numbers on the pigs' backs. Then later we got really upmarket and got clothes for the pigs. We created this track, which works well because we also do indoor jobs. And we've got five of these setups."

Kevin possesses a unique talent as a race caller, auctioneer and comedian.

"Wait until I've had a few beers," he said.

Zane McEvoy, Jimboomba, not only won the 11-15 years foot race, but he also came a close second in the men's footrace at the 2019 Bedourie Camel Races. Photo: Sherryl Brown.

Zane McEvoy, Jimboomba, not only won the 11-15 years foot race, but he also came a close second in the men's footrace at the 2019 Bedourie Camel Races. Photo: Sherryl Brown.

Kevin had no trouble getting the crowd to bid on the calcutta style pre-race auction of the pigs.

"It's good isn't it, it's alcohol induced bidding," he laughed.

"On a serious note, one thing I'm pretty chuffed about, we go from Cairns to Hobart and we do close to 100 jobs a year. Over the years we've raised more than $5 million for charity.

"When we do the Nindigully Pig Races, we raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, last year they cleared $41,000 there and I've been going there for 15 years.

"In March our local Sandy Creek pub at Warwick cleared $15,000, which was divided between CareFlight, a little school down the road and the cancer foundation."

The story Camels and crowds make tracks to far west Queensland first appeared on The Land.

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