Broome s big day at the races
Jockey Jake Casey, 16, takes some of the track with him. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

It is race day in Broome and Max Simmonds' knees creak in unison with the stairs to the broadcasting box he has been climbing up and down for the best part of half a century.

Simmonds, once the undisputed face of WA racing, will tomorrow call the running of a Broome Cup for a remarkable 43rd time to eclipse his 42 broadcasts of the Perth Cup during his long career at the top of the State's various racecourse grandstands.

The 78-year-old great-grandfather continued his warm-up for tomorrow's big race with a pitch-perfect performance at the annual "ladies' day" on Tuesday but was philosophical when asked whether he will kick on to post a 50-year milestone at his home away from his Perth home for three months of every year.

"By the time I get to 50, I'll be 85 and that would be pushing it," Simmonds said, his shirt pocket glistening with his life membership badge.

"The brain is OK but the body is starting to feel its age."

Asked what he remembered of the first winner he called in a Broome Cup, he said that he could barely remember what happened last year. He later recalled the 1972 winner as General Black and went on to describe what he saw as a unique racing venue.

"The old days in Broome are a lot different than they are now," he said. "You even look at the crowd today - 4500 with all the amenities and facilities.

Veteran race caller Max Simmonds. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

"In the old days there was no running rail, dust and about 600 people here."

Underneath his lofty outlook lies an eclectic crowd of ladies' day punters clad in anything from Billabong to Burberry. Precious few of them have come to the track with any sort of acute planning, they are just doing what some young Broomers describe as "PIBEing", or Playing It By Ear.

And in keeping with that theme, the fashions on the field winner - who triumphed over many different styles worn by women parading many different levels of sobriety - even had an otherwise perfect fawn and blue frock spoiled by some serious staining that the judges obviously did not see.

One flashy filly who was not eligible for the contest was a beaming Alana McLean, the young Perth woman who has become known as "The Face" of WA Country Cups.

Jockeys take a break between races. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

She saw her position as a perfect opportunity to fuse together her love for racing and fashion and expose it in regional WA.

"It's been a great experience to help promote regional racing," Ms McLean said. "I'm very lucky . . . I'm embracing 'The Face'."

But out the back of the course lies a strong contrast with the racing die-hards who roll in annually to construct a temporary trailer park of both robust structure and sentiment.

Veteran Bunbury horsesman Jim Enright admits he has not had the best of luck on the track in the 18 consecutive years he has been bringing horses to Broome.

But he seems right at home in the larrikin element the journey brings to his life.

Enright said fishing and crabbing sessions often bonded the journeymen and women, whose relationship was underpinned by reasonably constant bouts of sledging.

Veteran trainer Jim Enright at his stable at the Broome Turf Club. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

"We usually have a bit of a party somewhere each weekend and it's just a great life," he said.

"I've got a girl's bike I ride around and it's pink. People say to me they like the colour and I tell them my favourite colour is green. Then they think the silly old bugger is colour blind, too."

Back to the track, which has had its classic red dirt compounded by a topping of recycled oil, jockeys are returning with dirt splattered from face to silks.

Teenage star Jake Casey's fresh face looks as though it has been the prime target for a mud-chuckers' ball. Even dual Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Jim Cassidy is flitting around shaking hands and flashing his trademark smile.

The track's relaxed but vibrant atmosphere has club president Greg Fiorenza looking as happy as the cat with the canary.

"It's a real experience," he said.

"It's a diverse range of entertainment and that's what makes us very different, I think."

Key White takes part in the Fashions of the Field competition. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The West Australian

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