As the wet season ends and the long dry begins, the facilities staff at the Darwin Turf Club up their game. The gardens and grass, fresh off the back of a huge wet season, need that little bit of extra TLC as the storm clouds are replaced by the cool breezes and clear skies. The humidity drops, and sometimes it’s so chilly in the morning that dog walkers and exercising locals need a light jumper. For southerners escaping a cold, dark winter, it’s a comical sight, but a welcome one as the city prepares for Darwin’s biggest social and sporting event.
It’s the time of year loved by locals and travelers alike – the dry season. It’s the time when Territorians boast about the weather, and all the wonderful activities happening in the Top End. Tourists flock to town, fill the streets, flights, and accommodation. They’re eating out and shopping and heading out on fishing charters and feeding jumping crocs down the Adelaide River.
And that’s all in a normal year.
The pressure has never been greater as demand for tickets to the Great Northern Darwin Cup Carnival has been unprecedented. Tickets have been selling out in record times, and accommodation is as rare as hen’s teeth for the weekend of the running of the Darwin Cup.
Darwin Turf Club chief executive Brad Morgan credits the ban on international travel.
“I think the Darwin Cup has always been on many Australians’ bucket list, so this year with no international travel, they’re coming north, and they’re coming for the carnival,” he said.
“This year has been completely unexpected, especially in comparison to 2020, and we are having to be creative in building new spaces for people who are wanting a high-end Territory experience at the Darwin Cup.
“We also know many of these people are making the most of that entire weekend, coming to each and every event we host over that weekend, from the Ladbrokes Let’s Talk Racing Luncheon on the Thursday, the bet365 Palmerston Sprint and the Sportsbet Darwin Turf Club Gala Ball on the Saturday and then finishing it off on the Monday with the cup.”
Ticket data indicates upwards of 80 per cent of sales are from interstate guests throughout all ticketed areas, with 83 per cent of sales in the New Public Stand from interstate travelers. “This is a huge number of people coming from outside the Northern Territory to come to the Great Northern Darwin Cup Carnival,” Mr Morgan said.
“We know that for every dollar spent here, $8 is spent in the community so conversion of those figures suggests it’s going to be a very big weekend for lots of people in our city.”
The Darwin Turf Club’s two newest venues have also been extremely popular, with offerings at both Silks Darwin and in the New Public Stand coming online again.
The New Public Stand is the newest piece of infrastructure on course, with punters getting a taste of the action during last year’s modified carnival. The 2021 offerings being extremely popular, with level one function sold out in a matter of weeks, and 90 per cent of corporate boxes selling before tickets were on sale.
“We know we have a really great product here which rivals the interstate equivalent,” Mr Morgan said.
“Tickets in that particular function were the first to go, which shows we have a product in demand by interstate punters, who want to watch the races behind the glass in a real five-star setting.
“Corporate boxes are no different – we hadn’t even gone to market, and they were 90 per cent sold before the 2021 carnival had really been promoted.”
Silks Darwin is no different, with offerings last year extremely popular, again almost at full capacity two weeks after going on sale.
The award-winning venue offers punters a different dining experience for the Darwin Cup, with three options to choose from: the Sports Bar, the Track Restaurant, and the Roof Top. All are fully catered with a beverage package.
Mr Morgan said the venue would also be hosting a number of exclusive events after each of the eight race days, including roof top after parties with entertainment.
“Darwin Cup Day is the only day we have hospitality options available over carnival and will be the only day open to ticket holders only,” he said.
“The other seven days will be open to the public, and we’re excited to be hosting a number of exclusive events like roof top parties and the Ladbrokes Calcutta.
“Our deck is also an extremely popular option for the bigger race days and will be full of people enjoying the dry season while watching some fantastic local thoroughbred racing.
“The deck of Silks Darwin has perfect viewing of the track and allows for people to cheer on their horse as it comes into the home straight which is really exciting for them to be a part of.”
In June, the venue picked up three major awards at the AHA NT Hospitality Awards: Best New Venue, Best Overall Large Club, and Best Club Gaming Venue.
“This was a huge effort for Silks which had been open less than 12 months and goes to show its popularity and uniqueness in Darwin,” Mr Morgan said.
Now, as the Great Northern Darwin Cup gets closer and closer, the teams at the Darwin Turf Club continue to work together to deliver one of the biggest Cup Carnivals on record.
From the maintenance and grounds crew ensuring the grass stays green and gardens maintained, to the functions team planning the perfect table layouts, the Darwin Turf Club is a buzz of activity as the Great Northern Darwin Cup Carnival fever takes over for another year.
The Great Northern Darwin Cup is Darwin’s biggest social and sporting event, and tickets are still available. Get yours now at darwinturfclub.org.au before it’s too late.