THE Far North’s pinnacle social and sporting occasion has called last drinks for another year after its 65th Sapphire Jubilee anniversary was a resounding success.
Up to 10,000 racegoers and revellers came through the gates of Cannon Park last weekend to participate in the spectacle and witness some 182 horses vie for a share in the more than $600,000 prize purse across 16 races on both days.
Townsville trainer Lindsay Hatch’s grey gelding, Sayl took line honours, beating Cairns trainer Stephen Massingham’s Don Arcangelo and Cairns Cup winner The Driller in the Great Northern Brewing Co’s Cairns Amateurs Cup which delivered a cash prize of $150,000.
Across at the highly competitive Fashions on the Field, 158 competitors indulged in the sartorial splendour of spring, immaculately turned out from head to toe and impressing judges Carnival Ambassador Emma Scodellaro, Crystal Kimber, Neil Carpenter, and milliner Kathryn Lee.
Across the three days of competition prizes valued at $35,000 were awarded in 12 categories that included a new section for the region’s local ladies won by Sophie Kirkham from Cairns as well as an overall Carnival Champion clinched by Tatiana Collier from Ballarat, Victoria.
The Carnival’s award-winning caterer, Ochre Restaurant and Catering wrapped up a big week serving meals to 3686 guests, including delicious food and five-star service at both waterfront marquee events, the Jubilee Fashion High Tea and Sapphire Ball.
The Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation added a further $19,967 to finalise their three-year fundraising partnership total of $78,595 which will go towards improving the region’s health care.
This year’s special guests included Governor of Queensland, Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeanette Young AC PSM, Minister for Education, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing, the Honourable Grace Grace, Assistant Tourism Minister for Tourism Industry Development, Michael Healy, Cairns Amateurs’ patron Bart Sinclair OAM, and Melbourne Cup jockey Jim Cassidy.
Also attending for the first time was Sue Blakeney from Gympie whose late husband Bill, a jockey, was a member (the youngest at the time) of the inaugural 1959 Cairns Amateurs committee.
Completing his third carnival at the helm, Cairns Amateurs Carnival President David Goodman praised the event management team led by Victoria and Mark Jennings and the committee whose time and hard work culminated in excellent attendance through the gate and at marquee events across the three-day Carnival.
“We spent quite a bit of time and effort rethinking and revising our events and Cannon Park layout for this year’s Carnival,” he said.
“We wanted to make the most of Cairns Jockey Club’s new infrastructure while also working hard to attract our next generation of racegoers with a resident DJ and live band for the all-new Vodka Cruise Carnival Pavilion and Picnic on the Lawn in particular.
“While it is wonderful to celebrate 65 years it is also important to remain relevant and I am happy to report the intergenerational appeal of Cairns Amateurs is at an all-time high.
“In the past few days, we have enjoyed some wonderful feedback, in particular, the event’s much-lauded high tea and ball which managed to lift the bar once again.”
From high tea, cocktail parties, and fashion parades on the waterfront to the crowds at Cannon Park cheering for their favourite horses or simply catching up with friends, Mr Goodman said it is not one but a whole series of elements that give Amateurs the truly special star quality it deserves.
The 66th Cairns Amateurs Carnival will take place from 12 to 14 September 2024.