Lucy Hughes Jones
(Australian Associated Press)
Forget the horses, punters at an outback Aussie pub are celebrating the Melbourne Cup Territory style – with baby crocodile racing.
The main event may be at Flemington racecourse on the first Tuesday in November, but some 3700km away dozens gathered at the Berry Springs Tavern to watch the Top End’s version.
Half a dozen young salties, each measuring 60cm to 80cm long, raced to the edge of a hay bale circle in the second annual Croc Cup.
Mongrel and Malcolm won the semi-finals, taking just seconds to clear the five-metre stretch, while Handbag came last.
Melbourne woman Belinda Harris picked overall winner Tab, bagging herself a fishing trip.
Across the Territory people with Spring Carnival fever have been putting their money on frog, crab and crocodile racing.
“Horses have had their day,” Berry Springs Tavern owner Ian Sloan said.
“Territorians are just quirky that way. I think alcohol is probably a factor.”
He’s pushing for an NT public holiday for locals to watch “the race that crocs a nation”.
The animals were on loan for the day from Darwin tourist attraction Crocodylus Park, and one escaped its cage moments before the race.
“They were just warming up – very ready to race,” Crocodylus Park handler Alex Williams said with three reptiles in each hand.
There was a Fashions in the Bush competition where one finalist went barefoot.
And the afternoon was capped with a race of cane toads, where customers got down on their hands and knees to blow the toads to the edge of the circle with a straw – the winner receiving a six-pack of beer.
“It’s high stakes. But unlike the crocodiles we’re not too concerned with the welfare of the cane toads. At the end of the race they’ll just be going in the freezer,” Mr Sloan said.
“We were supposed to have yellow-nosed turtles racing too, but they failed a drug test last night and we’ve had to scratch them.”
There’s mud crab racing at Darwin’s Beachfront Hotel and green tree frog racing at the Noonamah Tavern.