As I think we mentioned before, any Turf Club in Western Australia must have a physician on site before running a horse race.
We don’t particularly have a problem with this rule….
Scott has worked several of the Geraldton races, and a couple of weeks ago he also had the opportunity to attend the race at Mt. Magnet, a small gold-mining community almost 4 hours east of here.
Mount Magnet is one of the mid-west region’s original gold mining towns, and the longest surviving gold mining settlement in Western Australia. The prominent hill that is adjacent to the current townsite was called West Mount Magnet in 1854 by explorer Robert Austin, having named a smaller hill 64km away, East Mount Magnet (now called Carron Hill). Both hills had an extremely high iron content which affected the readings of his compass. Iron ore has also been an extremely lucrative natural resource in Western Australia.
Gold is still mined here, in open-pit mines. If you google Mt Magnet, you can see a few mines encircling the town.
The last census, in 2011, counted 532 people. Many miners also fly in and out of the town, and in the meantime, live in worker accommodation, which look a little like aluminium cabins, gathered in groups at the end of town. There are miners living in town, of course. Out-of-towners and home boys.
They’ve been running this horse race for 118 years, twice a year, in spring and fall. It’s a very big deal. That’s understandable in a town this little and so incredibly far from the next town of any size (Geraldton).
We arrived early, and there was quite a bit of excitement in the air. The volunteer ambulance brigade was setting up a concession stand, and the pub, set up in a large wooden open-sided shed, was already busy.
The bar sign read:
Beer: 2 tickets
Champers: 4 tickets.
I’ve still no idea how you actually paid by ticket, or what a ticket was worth in cold hard cash, but for champagne, why, 4 tickets seems like quite the deal…
We talked to the grizzly bearded race steward, who we later discovered was running the whole day, including the foot races and tug-of-war that took place after the horse races.
It was an iconic sight, all the Australian men in their hats, quite a few of the women in heels and best dress, some of the young guys in suits.
It’ll be hard to forget the crisp-white-shirt-day for some of these towns-people, contrasting with the deep rich red of interior Australia.
There was plenty of 4-ticket Champers flowing, and so the tug-of-war, which ended up being somewhat of a Viking-style battle between the “out-of-towners” and the home-boys, was quite a sight.
The tug-of-war between the women in their fancy dresses, was even more of a sight, as I’m sure the kids will tell you sometime…
We didn’t take pictures of that part….
A shuttle bus came and escorted all individuals in need of shuttling back to their homes, and the day ended safely in Mt. Magnet. We ate excellent hamburgers at the gas station, and stayed overnight at a local hotel.
We loved it. The whole dust-coated thing.
Thank you, Mt. Magnet.
Just a side note, but in this part of the country there are some mammoth-sized eagles. We saw several feasting on kangaroo road-kill on the way out and back.
Here’s one Addie caught on film.
The crow in the background is apparently photo-bombing.