Race day in dust always a winner
Marble Bar races, it's about more than just the horses. Pictures: Ian Munro/The West Australian

At the Marble Bar races even the horses like to take it easy.

"We're still waiting for a couple to get there," the race caller tells the patient crowd as jockeys manoeuvre their mounts into place for the second race of the day and a line forms for the kebab truck.

"They're taking a real Sunday stroll."

Minutes later, when the horses thunder home, onlookers standing beside the railings are showered by a light cloud of red dirt that sticks to the skin. Not even those who backed a loser seem to mind.

It is a pleasant 27C winter day in Australia's hottest town and nobody plans to let a little dust get in the way of a good time.

Since the Marble Bar races were first held in 1893 as a two-day event with district-bred horses, it has grown into a serious 1500 people-plus knees-up.

For some the day has been marked on the calendar for months: a rare chance to dress up, see friends and make new ones. Queenslanders Lynell and Errol Jenbra blew into Marble Bar the day before the Saturday races, en route from the Kimberley to Perth.

"We rounded up last night and they said, 'Oh, the races are on, so you've got to come and have a look'," Mr Jenbra says from the comfort of a portable folding chair that gives him a perfect view of the straight.

Surveying the crowd with an experienced eye, race club president Kevin Danks thinks this year may be close to a record attendance. Police put the crowd at between 1500 and 1600.

Whether it is down to the size of the crowd or the warmth of the day, by midafternoon the bar has run out of white wine. The red proves almost equally refreshing, having been kept on ice for most of the day.

Later in the night, things will get messier as the well-lubricated crowd spills on to the nearby streets.

But for now the crowd is well-behaved, heads are cool and the atmosphere convivial.

Last year's races were marred by a legal fuss over streaking - a practice regarded as tradition by many regulars.

This year's compromise is a footrace in which participants can strip down as far as their underwear.

"You've got to wear your jocks," the announcer reminds those taking part. "Clothing is optional but you've got to wear your jocks."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West