Canadian Katie Spencer wins Birdsville's Fashions on the Field

A week before the history-making April race meeting in Birdsville, Katie Spencer was at home in Canada and had never been to horse races before, let alone in Australia's outback, and she'd never entered a Fashions on the Field contest.

When she flew into Sydney and her boyfriend, Gunnedah's Mark Tindall told her they were going to the Birdsville Races, she cruised social media pages to find out what it was all about.

"That's where I heard about the fashions - I thought it would be a real novelty to experience," she said.

Canada's Katie Spencer looking glamorous on the track at Birdsville.

Canada's Katie Spencer looking glamorous on the track at Birdsville.

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Katie found her colourful orange fascinator in Wollongong first, then the matching shoes and bag, and finally the classic black and white contrasting outfit.

What made her win even more surreal was the preparation - a shower in a bucket first, then applying her makeup on the front seat of the Landcruiser.

"I'd never done anything like that before," she said.

Hers was one of many tales of the trouble ladies went to, to present their best to the judges on the day - many a precious hat had to be saved from being squashed by the esky, and one woman resorted to ironing her linen dress with a hot saucepan.

Brisbane woman Tracy Slingsby was nearly without any outfit to wear - she had carefully hung her dresses in the motel cupboard at Windorah for her stop the night before Birdsville, only to discover when they had to change a flat tyre at Deon's Lookout, that she'd left them behind.

A frantic call by satellite phone from Betoota to Windorah publican Ian Simpson assured her the outfits had been found and were on their way with a trusted traveller.

Tracy was reunited with her dresses a few hours later, and looked a million dollars trackside.

The race itself was a thrilling win for the Austin stable.

Central west Queensland galloper Echo Point went to the lead in the historic event for a commanding win.

It was the third Birdsville Cup win for trainer Todd Austin but the first for the excited Barcaldine syndicate on hand to cheer the champion home.

Speaking on behalf of all the euphoric owners, Barcaldine's Will Chandler said it had been a magic day for them all.

They took the opportunity to fly west at the last minute and were rewarded handsomely, watching the horse shorten in the betting from $1.50 to $1.18 before the barriers opened on the much anticipated race.

Winners are grinners: Birdsville Cup winner Echo Point with Toni Austin representing her husband, trainer Todd Austin, jockey Brook Richardson, and part owners Will and Marcelle Chandler, Barcaldine.

Winners are grinners: Birdsville Cup winner Echo Point with Toni Austin representing her husband, trainer Todd Austin, jockey Brook Richardson, and part owners Will and Marcelle Chandler, Barcaldine.

Training partner and part-owner Toni Austin complimented jockey Brooke Richardson on her patient ride, saying the horse had come home really well.

Second in the race was Shiranda, trained by Mackay's John Manzelman, and ridden by the only other female jockey at the meet, Jade Doolan.

Bernie's Tiger, another from the Manzelman stable, was third.

Ms Austin said they now hoped to be back in September to make it a double for Echo Point.

In what is believed to be the single biggest trainer bonus in the history of country racing in Queensland, if a trainer wins both the April and September 2022 TAB Birdsville Cup races, they will receive up to $15,000 in bonuses.

"Let's say today was a practice run for September," Ms Austin said.

This story From Canada to Birdsville: Thousands flock to outback race first appeared on Queensland Country Life.