In the space of a three-hour drive you travel from Cairns and the pristine beaches of the Great Barrier Reef, through the lush tropical rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands and find yourself in the town of Mt Garnet, surrounded by the dry sclerophyll forests of the north Australian savannah. Mt Garnet is a tin-mining town on the brink of extinction, but each May it is transformed when approximately 3500 people descend on the town to attend its annual racing carnival.
Mt Garnet Amateur Turf Club is a country thoroughbred racing club in far north Queensland. The Club was originally established to provide entertainment in the local area. Now in its 80th year, the Club has promoted and developed the Sport of Kings across the Far North. Many of the families who were instrumental in the development of the Club are still involved today.
The racing carnival is held in conjunction with the Mt Garnet Rodeo Association's annual rodeo. These events are quintessentially Australian and focus on the old-fashioned values of country hospitality and mate-ship. The Mt Garnet Races & Rodeo tradition sees people travel from all over the country to attend.
Over time the event has evolved, but it owes its roots to the troops who were stationed in the district during World War II. It is an action-packed event with two days of thoroughbred racing, one rodeo day, and nights filled with live music and campfires.
Originally known as Newman Park, the grounds of the L.D. Lucey Memorial Park Reserve was donated to the Mt Garnet Amateur Turf Club by Mr Len D. Lucey in 1938; it was renamed in Mr Lucey's honour after his death. Mr Lucey was a driving force behind getting the track up and running.
The first races at the track were held on 24th June 1938. Originally the track used a flag start, this later became a retractable-tape start as technological advances were made; the track now utilises mobile starting stalls.
Mt Garnet was at first a grass-fed meet. This meant that all competing horses were paddocked together for a period of time before the races, and were not permitted to be fed - they had to live on grass. After the paddocking time had finished owners could take their horses and begin training and feeding them; this was approximately 2 weeks before the race date. This made the Mt Garnet races a very social environment, as many owners and trainers would live at the race track during this period. This social atmosphere is still an important ingredient of the Mt Garnet race environment today. Grass-fed racing was phased out by Racing Queensland in the 1990s.
The current location of the race track is the third known site where racing has been held in the local area. Other known locations were at Warruma Swamp and Strathvale. More information, and newspaper clippings from these times, can be found out our Facebook page.
The Mt Garnet Amateur Turf Club is an established company which has been incorporated under the Incorporations Act Qld 1981. The purpose of the Club is to provide thoroughbred horse racing events and other entertainment to the local area. The Club is administrated by a management committee and is governed by Racing Queensland.
The management committee is elected each year at the AGM by the financial members of the Club. All committee members must resign from their positions and, upon nomination, may stand for re-election. To qualify to nominate for the management committee, one must be a financial member of the Club.
As MGATC is a non-for-profit organisation, no member or committee member, can benefit or make a profit from the Club. This means that all committee members are volunteers. MGATC relies heavily upon volunteers, both from with in the Club and externally, to conduct its business and to host its events.