The Penong Cup
The Penong Cup is held in March, in the tiny South Australian township of Penong. It’s a good day out for residents and the perfect addition to a fun-filled weekend for tourists, and Penong itself is on the Eyre Highway so it’s very easily reached. For online and offline punters, it’s the perfect opportunity to refine strategies and insights into the sport before they try out their skills in Australia’s bigger events.
Make a Full Weekend of It
Sitting on the Nullarbor Plain, Penong has some great natural beauty and attractions to offer. Its Cactus Beach is renowned for classic breaks and will be enjoyed by every surfing enthusiast, while the beauty of the nearby Blue Lake offers more of a tranquil break. The town is also dotted with dozens of windmills, which supplement its water supply by pumping from the Anjutabie Water Basin and add a sense of quirkiness to the picturesque scenery. Penong is the closest settlement to Chadinga Conservation Park and the salt- and gypsum-rich Lake MacDonnell, which should also be checked out if time allows. The Penong Hotel (where the annual Calcutta is held just before the Cup is run) and Campsite offer different accommodation packages, and the Woolshed Museum should help visitors to gain a real sense of the town.
The Races Themselves
The Penong Cup is the main feature on a card of five races, which involve a Maiden Plate as well as events of different lengths, handicaps and prizes. The Penong Cup is 1,600 metres long with a benchmark of 54 and is handicapped. It’s also open to apprentices, and offers prizes of 3,500, 1000 and 500 Australian Dollars to those who place first, second and third respectively. There are full on-course betting facilities, and as always punters need to look at horse and jockey performance history, track conditions on the day, reliable tips from trusted sources and any other information they can find. This smaller event should be considered a good practice ground for larger meets, with the opportunity to still take home a tidy sum.
More to the Day
There’s more substance to the Penong Race Day than the Cup and the other sprints. As the epitome of what a bush race can and should be like, it also offers free activities for children, live entertainment to keep the festivities going, on-course dining options and bar facilities, and of course the glamourous Fashions on the Field event. The stylish winners of this competition will go on to the next round, which is the Fashion at the Races State Final, and enjoy some serious prizes as well.
In the midst of all this festivity, visitors should know that the Penong Cup and its surrounding events are also in aid of a worthy cause. Since 1975, when a young boy fell prey to a shark at the nearby Port Sinclair, the Cup has helped the Safe Swim Committee to maintain the shark-proof container that was erected in his memory. Serious punters, families enjoying a day out and everyone in between should enjoy Penong’s charm and the Race Day itself, and take a moment to honour the work of the Safe Swim Committee and the life of the boy who was lost. A day at the races couldn’t offer more rounded experiences.