Retired racecaller Greg Miles visits Barcaldine, Queensland during the Melbourne Cup tour
I met one of racing’s most ardent fans recently – let’s call him Bob. Well, that’s his real name actually, I didn’t catch his surname.
We met in Barcaldine. Where? I hear you ask. Barcaldine… pronounced Bar-Col-din (the locals really hate it when you get it wrong). Barcaldine is a town in Central West Queensland. If you were in Rockhampton and drove six and half hours west you’d find it.
I’ve been fortunate to be part of the Emirates Melbourne Cup Tour this year – a tour that began 15 years ago. Every year communities around Australia bid to have the Cup come to their town. So here we are in Barcaldine. A small outback town where the humour is as dry as the land. It hasn’t rained here for almost five years, so it’s dry and dusty. The people are doing it really tough. It’s cattle and sheep country, but lots of huge farms have de-stocked as they just can’t feed their livestock.
Having the Melbourne Cup tour here really lifts the spirits.
Back to my meeting with Bob. We’ve taken the Cup to the Tree of Knowledge, a tree that was poisoned a few years ago, but nobody knows who did it or how. It’s dead but has been preserved in a beautiful wooden cathedral-type surround. This tree is significant because it was near here that the Labor Party of Australia was formed.
The Emirates Melbourne Cup finds itself stationed next to the Tree of Life in Barcaldine, Central West Queensland.
Bob has attended the ceremonies in the street this morning and is lining up to have his photo taken with the Cup. Everywhere we go with the iconic solid gold trophy people flock, line up patiently and smile broadly for their selfie with this $200,000 gem of a trophy.
Bob has spent his lifetime in racing. He’s raced a few with a little success. He’s now retired and has time to go to track work and help out his local trainer mates a few times a week. He has a flutter most days. He has the Cup in his hands and smiles like a proud grandfather as his wife snaps a memorable photo.
As we say our farewells and prepare to take the Cup to another venue Bob leans in and squeezes my hand and says ‘Thanks, this is the greatest day of my racing life’.
Wow! I was gobsmacked. All my broadcasting life I’d made statements like ‘The Cup is part of the fabric of our society, it’s part of our DNA, it’s part of being Australian’. Now I was witnessing tangible evidence to support those statements.
My meeting with Bob was typical of the four days we had touring this fabulous part of the country. From Barcaldine we travelled 106km west to Longreach and then a further 170 km to Winton. The reactions were so similar to Bob’s;
‘Is this the real Cup?’
‘Can I hold it?’
‘This is amazing!’
‘Don’t think I’ll ever be lucky enough to see a Melbourne Cup live, but this is almost as good.’
Most of we city folk take it for granted that we can jump in a taxi or train and go to the Melbourne Cup, or Turnbull Stakes to watch the wonder mare Winx, the Caulfield Cup or any of these great meetings.
So if you’re considering a trip to the races, just do it! It’s on our doorstep and you don’t want to suffer that horrible feeling of FOMO.
Do yourself a favour and head to one of our great meetings and witness greatness – the races are calling.
Bob would be very disappointed if you didn’t.