The Birdsville Races are horse races held each year in September in the Queensland, Australia, town of Birdsville. Funds are raised in aid of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia. The population is swelled from about 100 to around 7,000 people for the two-day event.
As Birdsville is very remote, many travellers come by air and hundreds of aircraft fill the town's airstrip. The town of Quilpie celebrates the event by welcoming travellers who are heading westwards to Birdsville by road.
The first races were run in the town in 1882. The club that convened the meeting was originally called the Birdsville Amateur Turf Club. It later changed to the Diamantina Amateur Race Club as it also convened the Betoota race meeting. In 1990 it separated from Betoota and became the Birdsville Race Club Incorporated.
The 2007 races were affected by a national outbreak of horse flu. The 2009 event attracted a crowd estimated at around 7,000, requiring 20 extra police to be temporarily posted to the small town. The 2010 races were cancelled, the first cancellation in the events history of 128 years, due to flooding.
The races were also cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. In 2021 they were also "called off" and rescheduled to April 2022. The vice-president of Birdsville Race Club, Gary Brook, said: "... more than 85 per cent of ticket holders hailed from locations unable to currently travel to regional Queensland due to lockdowns or government advice."
In the past the Birdsville races have included:
- a seven-pound handicap or penalty for professional riders
- special races for horses bred within 250 miles of Birdsville. There were also separate races for horses fed with corn and those fed on grass.
- prizemoney for the cup has varied from 500 pounds in the 1880s to 50 pounds in the 1940s, A$5,000 in 1982 and $25,000 in 2002.
- the cup distance has been 1 mile or 1,600 metres since the first race, in 1882. In 1949 and 1950 the ‘Hospital Handicap’ (1 mile) was run in lieu of the Cup. Meetings were held then to raise funds for the construction of the Birdsville Hospital. The annual race meeting is now held to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Birdsville Clinic.
- races were once started by the drop of a hat and later by strand barriers. They are now started with barrier stalls.
- the old course was three miles to the west of the town. There used to be steeplechase races on this course. The course was abandoned as it was prone to flooding.
- "Birdsville population swells ahead of races". ABC News Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 September 2005. Archived from the original on 11 November 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2006.
- Stich, Uli (2003). "Hundreds of planes visiting the Birdsville races". Birdsville Outback Queensland Australia. www.ulistich.com. Retrieved 18 April 2006.
- Chrissy Arthur. "Birdsville braces for race meet influx". ABC North West Queensland. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
- "Horse flu hits Birdsville Cup, but party goes on". Herald Sun. News Corporation. 28 August 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2007.
- "Birdsville Races 'one of our best'". ABC Western Queensland. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 September 2009. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- "Rain cancels Birdsville Races". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 4 September 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
- Grounds, Ellie (9 August 2021). "Birdsville Races called off due to COVID-19 for second year in a row, postponed to April 2022". ABC Western Qld. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
- "Birdsville Races". Birdsville Race Club Incorporated. Retrieved 17 April 2006.
- Oliver Herbrich Filmarchive: Documemtary on the centenary race in 1982 (Filmwebsite)