The headline UBET Birdsville Cup was narrowly taken out by 17-year old apprentice jockey Adin Thompson on the Johnson-trained Blue Jest at one of the biggest Birdsville Races to take over the Birdsville Race Club on Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September.
The final day of Western Queensland’s two-day race-meet saw close to 5000 revelers converge on the town of Birdsville to punt across a stacked seven-race card. Topping a stellar 12 horse field, the connection of Birdsville Cup winner Blue Jest nabbed a record $40,000 – the largest prize-purse in the race’s prestigious 136-year history. Adin, one of the youngest Birdsville Cup-winning jockeys in history, is based in Miles, with husband and wife duo Bevan and Mel Johnson, who co-trained Blue Jest to a nail-biting win. Bevan Johnson said the horse felt good all week. “They told me you couldn’t win with top weight, and then we drew the worst barrier. I’m going to celebrate tonight, that’s for sure!” Bevan Johnson’s win at Birdsville continues a string of successes at country race meets. He led overall acceptances for this year’s Birdsville Races with 13 starters and is the 2017 Queensland Country Trainer of the Year. The Johnsons have been fielding horses at the Birdsville Races since 2010, but 2018 marks their first Birdsville Cup victory.
The 2018 Birdsville Races boasted the biggest race field in the event’s iconic history, with a record 170 entries accepted across 13 races. The 170 acceptances for the 2018 race card broke the previous record of 164, which was set in 2015. The final field collectively journeyed more than 10,000 kilometres, from places as far away as Darwin, Ballarat, Stawell, Quorn, Murray Bridge, Adelaide, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and the Gold Coast. For the first time in 2018, punters from across Australia were able to watch all of the action from the Birdsville Races live from the comfort of their own home, thanks to a national telecast deal with Sky Racing 2.
The new deal saw the Races’ entire line-up telecast into homes across Australia, with half of the wagering proceeds donated to the Drought Appeal to help Queensland farmers doing it tough. Birdsville Race Club Vice President Gary Brook said they have had an absolute cracker of a meet this year. “It’s wonderful to be able to see continued growth in an event that’s 136 years old, and we keep welcoming new and familiar faces every year from not only the racing community, but also travellers from all over the country and abroad.”
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