And it came from a good old Aussie bet!
... I have had a feud with Lion Keith Mooney–Smith for some considerable time and I feel it is time we settled it.
So I challenge him to a duel, weapons being camels. Time and place I leave this up to him. That is if he is not chicken as he is getting that fat I doubt if he can sit on one; a good suggested time for this grudge race would be Centenary Celebrations….
Yours sincerely “Lion Noel”
The first Camel Race was run in 1970 in the dry Todd River Bed as a bet between two mates, Noel Fullerton and Keith Mooney-Smith, and was an added attraction at the Alice Springs Centenary Year Celebrations.
The Camel race proved so popular and hilarious that plans were made by the Lions Club to hold the event on an annual basis. The first permanent venue was Traeger Park, but low fences and a grass track were thought to be too dangerous, so in 1975 the event was moved to Arunga Park Speedway.
In 1979 it found its current home at the Noel Fullerton Camel Racing Arena at Blatherskite Park. Built by volunteers, Blatherskite Park is the only purpose built camel racing venue in the southern hemisphere with a commentary and judges' tower being erected, for telephone contact to the 'pits' and 'centre arena' to keep the crowd informed.
Due to required maintenance the 2018 Camel Cup will be held at the Alice Springs Turf Club. Pioneer Park is a state of the art facility and will provide a different feel to the event Whilst the Apex Club of Central Australia acknowledges Blatherskite Park will remain the permanent home of the Camel Cup however the move is required for 2018 to provide a safe environment for both Camels & Riders.
The Lions Club of Alice Springs has been involved from the beginning and has worked tirelessly in their efforts to raise funds for the community and provide a great day of racing for thousands of people to enjoy year after year. In early 2012 the Lions Club of Alice Springs Camel Cup Committee announced that the Apex Club of Central Australia has agreed to take over the running of the Lasseters Camel Cup. Due to the decline in club membership and the ageing of the remaining members, the Lions Club has decided after over 40 years to hand the famous desert race to Apex, an organisation with similar ideals to the Lions Club. “We are sure that the Apex Club will bring new and fresh ideas to the Lasseters Camel Cup,” Paul Barreau said.
“We wanted to ensure that the iconic Camel Cup continues and that the funds the Lions Club have raised over the past 40 years for community groups in need, continues well in the future,” Steve Langdon from Apex said.
“The Lions Club will continue to support the Apex Club with the event for as long as we are able,” Paul Barreau said.
The Characters of the Camel Cup
Over the years many individuals have contributed to the running of the Cup. These include Noel Fullerton, founder and main camel supplier for the Cup; Gool Mahomed last of the Afghan Cameleers and Official Judge at the Cup for many years; Shorty Smith riding the 26th Transport Squadrons camel mascots; camel suppliers Frontier Camel Tours, Kings Creek Station and Ross River; and ‘Uncle’ Arthur Liddle of Angus Downs who was Official Starter for many years. Some of these gentlemen are now in the big camel paddock in the sky, some who have retired,some moved on and some have just come to their senses!
One cameleer who has contributed for many years and outlasted most others is Neil Waters. Neil first rode in the cup in 1978 and is still going strong. Over the years he has won numerous races including the Lions Camel Cup, and the International Challenge Cup. Neil has represented Australia at the Virginia City Camel Races and raced camels on many tracks around Australia. He has also had a go at some of the more unusual events in the Camel Cup history. The ‘Back to Front’ camel race and driving sulkies behind camels were two of his more spectacular challenges.
The Honeymoon Handicap is one event that Neil does not need to enter anymore though, since he hitched up with his bride, Jayne, on a permanent basis. Jayne has retired from camel racing now but is still remembered in camel racing circles for a race in which she lost a stirrup and completed a good part of the course almost underneath her camel.
Jayne and Neil have purchased the camel farm 90km south of Alice Springs and renamed it ‘CAMELS AUSTRALIA’. They offer 2, 3, and 5 day safaris as well as half and full day excursions. If you don’t have time for this you can ride a camel in the yard at the farm.
Neil and Jayne are true cameleers in the modern sense of the word. They own camels and work in the camel industry. Skills in saddle making, camel catching, camel training, camel welfare and even the inevitable camel paperwork are all part of their roles at CAMELS AUSTRALIA.
On Lasseters Camel Cup day you will find Neil working tirelessly in the camel pens ensuring that camels are ready with rider and handler for the next race. Of course when the camels are racing you can normally find him up the front!
A Tribute to Noel Fullerton
Noel Fullerton was born in 1934 in Adelong, Temora, NSW. Growing up amongst a trucking family with an older brother and a younger sister. He met Isobel, his wife, in kindergarten and remained together, marrying at 16 years of age. Sadly he passed away on September 6 2015 in Quorn, South Australia.
The father of eight children, the grandfather of 32 and great grandfather to 7 children, he was seen as the patriarch of the Fullerton family.
His interest in camels began after moving to the Northern Territory in the early 60s and being introduced to Sallay Mahommod, one of the only surviving camel workers at the time. The first ever camel race in Alice Springs was held along the Todd River with Noel pitted against Kurt Posel. The race being a result of a pub argument, there are many myths as to what happened next, but it is thought Kurt bent the rules by riding a cow and putting its new calf at the finish line. Needless to say, Noel lost and he’s been making up for it ever since.
A life long member of LIONS, Noel has contributed to all previous Camel Cups. His camels only losing on a handful of occasions. He owned some of the fastest camels in Australia, holding many of the nation’s records. Including 42mph clocked by Marindy Mick and a time of 27 seconds for 400 metres run by Sweet Alice in 1984.
Noel was seen as the grandfather of the camel industry in Australia. The Apex Club of Central Australia Camel Cup Committee wish to pay tribute to Noel Fullerton without whom there would never have been a Camel Cup.
Noel was involved heavily with the Camel Cup since its inception, after all it was a result of his challenge to Keith Mooney Smith all those years ago that gave birth to what you see today.
Noel Fullerton was and will remain legendary figure, a “Camel Man”, whose knowledge of camels and expertise with them, made the Apex Camel Cup the premier event of camel racing.
For over 30 years Noel supplied most of the Camels which race and participate in the Camel Cup and also many of the riders and handlers.
Noel will always be remembered as a founder and driving force of the Camel Cup & will be sadly missed.
The American Connection 1987 to 2010
In January 1987 the Alice Springs Camel Cup committee received an enquiry by a young lady by the name of Brandi Lee, seeking information about the Alice Springs Camel Cup. In our reply we issued an invitation to her and her compatriots to “come and see what we are all about”.
The next thing we knew was in May 1987 we had a contingent of American Camel Jockeys on our doorstep led by the wife of the Governor of Nevada! They carried with them a massive “International Trophy” for competition between our two countries.
Racing in Virginia City is very different to our races here in Alice Springs. In Virginia City the races are run on a three-day programme and the races are on a straight track of approximately 100 yards, normally no more than four camels per race. It is a great day of entertainment and includes such novelties as ostrich racing and Brahman bull racing.
In addition to bringing the magnificent trophy they also issued a challenge to us to compete in their Nevada races in September 1987. Duly, we took the trophy to America with us and lost it at these races to Gary Jackson, one of the top riders from Virginia City.
Since that time we have developed a very friendly rivalry between Virginia City Nevada and Alice Springs Australia. The “International Camel Cup” is contested annually but alternately in Alice Springs and Virginia City.
It is with regret that there hasn’t been an international race run since 2010. Global economic hardship has made the international travel unviable. We wish the Americans luck with their races and will miss their presence here.