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Thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the Boulia Racecourse this winter for four days of races and family fun from July 14 to 17. With 2016 marking the 20th anniversary of the iconic Boulia Camel Races, local jockeys are hoping to keep the coveted Boulia Cup in town.

With a population of only 230 people, the small town in Outback Queensland is placing its hopes on homegrown entrants, including new camel training duo Dannileah Stewart and Ronnie Callope. Adding their talents to Boulia’s total of four camel training teams, Danni and Ronnie bring greater hope that the town will once again take home the Boulia Cup.

Apart from the camel racing scene, the couple are relatively new to the concept of camel riding itself, their first encounter with the dessert mammals being only seven years ago. A matter of circumstance, Ronnie explains that the Boulia’s Woodhouse family were looking for a couple of camel jockeys and, knowing how to ride a horse, encouraged him that it would be exactly the same. Ronnie describes his first ride, reminiscing, “I thought we were just going on a steady ride to get a feel for it, but after a minute we were going for it and I have never looked back from there”. Sensing their keen interest in the sport, the Woodhouse family taught Danni and Ronnie the ropes, showing them how to break-in, feed, train, and care for the camels.

With recent rain breaking some of the harsher drought conditions in Boulia, the pair are confident that greener pastures will have the camels in excellent racing condition for the event, now only three months away. Provided that the camels are in good health, Danni and Ronnie will race Spike, Marley, and Wason, with Danni’s brother, Bruce, jockeying the third camel.  While hoping that their entrants will place in the ‘Melbourne Cup’ of camel racing, Danni isn’t too expectant, noting that “it usually takes a few years to get a good one.” Indeed, Danni says she’ll be keeping an eye on South Australian trained camel, The Rock, as an interesting one to watch on the day.

Words by Kim Hellberg
Image supplied by Boulia Camel Races