Organisers of the Birdsville Races today announced the event will not be staged in 2020.
The races have been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be back again in 2021 on Friday and Saturday September 3-4.
The Birdsville Races, known as the Melbourne Cup of the outback, have been held since 1882 and this is only the second time it has been cancelled, the first in 2007 also due to a virus, the equine influenza.
The two-day spectacular of outback thoroughbred racing was set to run on September 4 and 5 this year but Gary Brook, Vice President of the Birdsville Race Club said they made the difficult decision to cancel "with heavy hearts".
"As much as we were holding onto the hope that we could run them, we're at a point where we've had to concede defeat," Mr Brook said.
"The health of our patrons, and those who live in Outback Queensland, is of paramount importance to us - and it is impossible to know what the status with COVID-19 will be come September."
Mr Brook said the race club were following the Queensland Government's roadmap for easing of restrictions.
"With the easing of restrictions on mass gatherings not currently part of the roadmap, it is too much of a stretch to expect that by September we could safely host thousands of people in Birdsville," he said.
"With so many businesses reliant on tourism in the region - and after years of tough times as a result of drought - the Birdsville Race Club made the commitment to hold on as long as they could before making the difficult decision to cancel the event this year."
Mr Brook said they even looked at moving the event to late September or early October.
"However the consensus now is that it will still be too soon to allow us to run the event. And with the heat that comes to the Simpson Desert region in November and December there is no way we could go any later," he said.
Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell said the Birdsville races is one of Queensland's great events.
"Every year, the pictures from the Simpson Desert are beamed around the world and the annual pilgrimage has become a true bucket list item for so many people," Mr Parnell said.
"Racing has a key role to play in driving Queensland's post-pandemic tourism recovery and we look forward to seeing Birdsville return bigger and better in 2021."
With no certainty on when international travel will open again, domestic travel is expected to boom in 2021, bringing with it record attendance to events like the Birdsville Races.
"After the event was unable to run in 2007 we recorded our largest crowds ever in 2008. And we're expecting next year to even bigger than that. It will be an amazing experience in Outback Queensland," Mr Brook said.
The Races will also continue its support of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 2021, hosting a six kilometre fun run to help fundraise for the vital service in the remote region.
The on-sale date of tickets to the 2021 Birdsville Races will be announced in the coming months with race entry and trackside hospitality options also available for pre-purchase.
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