|While Adelaide basks in the
entertainment and excitement of Tokyo City Cup day at Cheltenham Park, a smaller but just
as jovial group of racegoers will be strutting their stuff at the annual Penong Cup Day in
Penong. That's right with an
"o", we are not talking Penang. Penong isn't known by many but is passed through
by thousands every day.
While surfers know the area well thanks to the nearby famed
Cactus Beach, any person driving across the Nullarbor is sure to have passed the Penong
There's no green track. There's no spiralling grandstand.
Remember this isn't Royal Randwick it's rural Penong.
The town, which has as many residents as most metro meetings
have runners, only has one meeting per year. Each February the town's size swells with
race fans from all around Eyre Peninsula and the West Coast flocking to the track.
Anyone who is a regular visitor to the annual Penong races
would have been thinking the recent industrial action by groundworkers at Caulfield during
a day of 37 degrees was uncalled for.
It was at Penong back in 1996 that the five race card went
ahead despite the temperature hitting 50 degrees. One thing was for sure that day - the
watermelon was the first thing to sell out from the canteen.
Penong is well known for "windmill flat", an area
just to the east of the town which "houses" about 70 windmalls all within a
stones throw from each other.
As you drive through Penong and head past perhaps the only
area of green in the area - the football oval for the Western United Tigers - you are
warned of the oncoming dangers which may obstruct the traffic heading to the treeless
Not one sign warning of a kangaroo - but four of them! This
is without taking into account that famous fictional characted the Nullarbor nymph. Aside
from the kangaroos the signs warn of camels, emus and wombats in the upcoming 250
Another five kilometres west and on the right hand side of
the road is the famed Penong Racecourse. The scene of my first winner as an owner, is
South Australia's most western racehorse and indeed the furtherest from the state capital.
Come 1.30pm tomorrow afternoon and a field of six, the equal
biggest for the afternoon, will be led onto the track for the Riddles Transport/Caltex
Truck Stop Class D Handicap over 1000 metres.
Four of the six runners in the first of five races come from
nearby Ceduna. All three of that town's trainers - Rob Wilkins, Herbie Oats and Bushy
Trenowden - have runners. Along with Poochera's Malcolm Hebberman and Curramulka's Ron
Daniel they have the entire field.
The following two races have just four runners, while the
$3,200 Penong Hotel/West End Penong Cup over a mile has six runners including the George
Dawson trained Follow the Stars.
Penong is a track which gives every runner a chance. Aside
from the outer track Victoria Park it has the longest home straight in South Australia - a
somewhat torturing home run of 550 metres gives even the tailenders as much of a chance of
success at the finishing post.
Then of course there are the tailenders that tend to get lost
in the dust. Penong is well known for its dust and due to a lack of moisture in the town
in recent times the water truck is bound to be at work early on raceday.
And if anyone is desperate for some tips perhaps the five
winners will be (in race order) Quick and Lively, Motto, Exit Quick, Dark Lace and Desert
Shade. Penong used to be once a happy hunting ground - I do remember tipping the card
there one day!