The 2018 Birdsville Races boasted the biggest race field in the event’s iconic 136-year history, with a record 170 entries accepted across 13 races.
The headline 1600m UBET Birdsville Cup narrowly taken out by 17-year-old apprentice jockey Adin Thompson on the Johnson-trained Blue Jest.
The final day of Western Queensland’s richest two-day race-meet saw close to 5,000 revelers converge on the tiny town of Birdsville to party and punt across a stacked seven-race card, with cornflower blue skies and striking desert terrain further heating up the bumper action.
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.
Thompson, one of the youngest Birdsville Cup-winning jockeys in history, is based in Miles, Queensland, with husband and wife duo Bevan and Mel Johnson, who co-trained Blue Jest to a nail-biting win.
After the race, 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. Their jockey daughter Dakota had ridden to many races wins upon Blue Jess, but fell pregnant this year – giving young-gun Thompson the opportunity to ride in the Cup.
Outside of the race track, Fashion on the Fields was a final day highlight, with classic, contemporary and novelty divisions for men, women, couples, and families.
As in previous years, entertainment and trackside hospitality were also key draw-cards, while live music, pub festivities, and Fred Brophy’s famous Boxing troupe kept crowds bustling in the township of Birdsville itself.
The 16th annual Lexus Melbourne Cup Tour also hit the track on the final day of the Birdsville Races, with Australian all-time great jockey Jim Cassidy parading the Cup before handing it over to Birdsville Race Club President, David Brook.