It’s the one time of the year when Tennant Creek becomes the centre of the racing universe in the Northern Territory.
The Tennant Creek Racing Club will host its one and only meeting for the year at Hagan Park on Saturday.
Action at Darwin’s Fannie Bay and Alice Springs’ Pioneer Park will also take a further back seat in the immediate future.
The Adelaide River Show Society Race Club – the only grassed track in the NT – hosts its Cup Day meeting on June 4 with the Katherine Turf Club staging its Cup Day meeting on August 13 following the Darwin Cup Carnival.
Hagan Park, which also boasts the longest home straight in the NT at more than 400m in length, will once again have two feature races on the six-event program.
There’s the AU$25,000 Tennant Creek Cup (1600m) for the open class and the $20,000 Denis Staunton Memorial Cup (1200m) for the 0-70 class.
“It’s known as a two Cups meeting,” Tennant Creek Racing Club president Mike Nash said on Sunday.
“The nominations effectively start coming in on Tuesday.
“We’ve got about 24 at the moment, so I believe that will increase after this weekend.”
The annual race meeting – held 507km up the road from the Red Centre – follows the Alice Springs Cup Carnival, which concluded on May 1.
However, the Tennant Creek program is not only strongly supported by owners, trainers and jockeys from the Alice, but members of the public who are happy to make the trip up the Stuart Highway.
Every year, Mt Isa raiders also make the 661km trip to Tennant Creek along the Barkly Highway before heading south along the Stuart Highway to participate.
Darwin horses have also featured at Tennant Creek en route back to the Top End following the Alice Carnival.
“That’s right in regards to visitors from Mt Isa,” Nash said.
“With the Isa people I haven’t heard anything from them at the moment, but I believe that there is a couple interested.”
They may only race once a year, but the Tennant Creek Racing Club’s committee rarely sit on their hands when it comes to preparing for its big day.
“We have been preparing for quite some time and all is going ahead pretty well,” Nash said.
“It’s not a five minute exercise.
“We have a bit of free time after every Cup.
“It doesn’t take long and then you’re back into it again gearing yourself up.
“We’ve had quite a few working bees of late.
“We’ve got brand new sand on the track.
“We’re putting in a brand new sound system because the old one I’m afraid was very average and pretty outdated.
“We’ve updated that and it’s going to sound a lot better – more clarity. It was very muffled and distorted before.
“It’s coming together well.”
Nash, who has been the TCRC president for the past “four or five” years, is a “sparkie” by trade and admits that he isn’t really a “horsie” person.
However, he couldn’t hide his admiration in the way the town has come together with the race meeting only days away.
“The support has been magnificent this year,” he said.
“Local sponsors, and a few other people – contractors who have been in and out of town have once again come to the party and they’re actually throwing their weight behind it very well.
“At the moment on the committee there would be six active members, but we’ve got a lot of support from local contractors as well who are reluctant to join the committee.
“They’re always there to lend a hand – and quite an extensive hand too I might add.”
The fact that Tennant Creek lost its race meeting in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic has seemingly galvanized the town as everyone looks forward to the occasion.
“My word, we’ve experienced our ups and downs here in Tennant Creek in recent years,” Nash said.
“A lot of people certainly embrace the race meeting.
“It’s really the only time that the girls can frock up and come out and have a hoot.
“There’s no such thing as Deb Balls anymore or dances or anything like that, so it is really a big day for Tennant Creek and the Barkly Region for that matter.
“I’m also hearing too that quite a few people from cattle stations are going to attend this year, which will be a really good thing.”