The popular SeaLink Kangaroo Island Racing Carnival will be back to normal for its 140th anniversary this year, after two years of COVID restrictions.

The races were first held in 1883 and have since become a fixture on the Kangaroo Island calendar.

To celebrate the anniversary, there will be merchandise for sale and memorabilia on show, including the original cup won by Richard Chapman and his horse Lolo.

The event has been capped at 2500 people for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is expected that up to 3000 people will attend this year’s event.

Kangaroo Island Racing Club secretary and treasurer Greg Miller said that accommodation and ferries to Kangaroo Island have already sold out for the February weekend.

“It’s Kangaroo Island’s single biggest event and the amount of money that it brings into the economy is just quite unbelievable,” he said.

The Kangaroo Island Cup will take place on Thursday, February 16, and Saturday, February 18, at the Cygnet River Racecourse.

Thursday will be a casual race day and will finish with a welcoming cocktail party with former jockey Dwayne Dunn as a guest.

The cocktail party will also feature the launch of a song written by local songwriter Christine Rourke after the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires and recorded by Australian pop legend John Paul Young.

Proceeds from the song launch will go towards bushfire recovery and to victims of the recent Riverland floods.

Miller said the racing club was fortunate not to have been heavily affected by the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the bushfires were actually put out, we were able to race immediately after the bushfires – we got the biggest attendance we’ve ever had,” he said.

“People were looking for something after the fires to be able to forget about the fires and perhaps just relax for a little bit.”

He said during the bushfires, the racecourse was used to house farm horses and that it was also used by the Australian army to park heavy machineryBottom of Form.

Saturday will be more formal and will include the Dudley Wines Kangaroo Island Cup.

Tickets for private marquees and to the KI Spirits long lunch have already sold out, however, general admission tickets are still available.

Prebooked tickets cost $16 for Thursday, $21 for Saturday, or $31 for both days.

Tickets will also be available at the gate for $16 on Thursday and $26 on Saturday.

Alternatively, day packages that include a bus departing from Adelaide or Cape Jervis, are still on sale.

Words: Charlie Gilchrist
Image: Dean Wiles.