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Picnic crowd - courtesy of Peter Young
Picnicing crowds enjoying the day out in 2012. Photo: Peter Young


Fashions entrant - coutesy of Peter Young
Girls' Fashions on the Field. Photo: Peter Young


Betting ring - courtesy of Peter Young
Punters try their luck in the betting ring. Photo: Peter Young


Rooster crow - courtesy of Peter Young
A young boy tries his hand at the rooster crow. Photo: Peter Young


Fashions junior boy - courtesy of Peter Young
Junior Boys' Fashions on the Field. Photo: Peter Young


Shetland pony - courtesy of Peter Young
There were long-odds on this little fellow. Photo: Peter Young


Fashions entrant - courtesy of Peter Young
Men's Fashions on the Field. Photo: Peter Young


A fun day at the races - courtesy of Peter Young
A couple having a fun day at the races. Photo: Peter Young

Tambo Valley Picnic Races
The Tambo Valley Picnic Races hosted by the Tambo Valley Racing Club (TVRC) are one of the great horse racing events on Country Racing Victoria’s calendar.

Victorian thoroughbred racing is rooted in the picnic racing tradition operating out of relaxing country locations throughout the state. Mainly run by volunteer community based racing clubs, picnic races contribute financially and socially to the local community, and attending a day at the picnic races has become a tradition for many. The picnic racing circuit also provides an invaluable opportunity for trainers, owners, and riders to get a start in the industry, and to expand their skills and experience.

Despite the relaxed country atmosphere, picnic races are fiercely contested and provide all the thrills and pageantry you could want from a great day at the races. The Tambo Valley Racing Club is proud to be part of Victoria’s picnic racing tradition.

The Tambo Valley Picnic Races take place just 2 km north of the small East Gippsland town of Swifts Creek every Easter Sunday. Set in the magnificent foothills of the Australian Alps – true ‘Man from Snowy River’ country – it is a unique and must-see event. Alpine racing – just magic!

Action in 2011 - courtesy of flagstaffotos
Furious action at the 2011 Tambo Valley Races. Photo: flagstaffotos

Fashions winner - courtesy of flagstaffotos
Winning fashions Photo: flagstaffotos

Racecourse panorama - courtesy of John O'Neill
Panoramic view of the Tambo Valley racecourse (click to enlarge). Photo: John O'Neill

Track information
The Tambo Valley Racecourse is situated on a flat piece of grazing land between the Great Alpine Rd and the Tambo River just out of Swifts Creek, surrounded by the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.

Bring yourself up here when the races are not taking place and you'll find a bucolic scene of herds of cattle grazing the track and infield in the lee of the hills under a majestic clean sky. You may also notice the windsock in the infield of the course being lightly blown by a pure mountain breeze, an indication that the level surface of the racecourse doubles as the town's emergency airfield.

The track has a gently undulating surface, with starting points for 1,000m, 1,200m, and 1,600m races.

Track records
Current track records are:


Piper and finish line - courtesy of Peter Young
A lone piper plays alongside the finishing post. Photo: Peter Young

  Distance Horse Time Date
  1,000m No Other Player 56.48s 12 March 2001
  1,200m Tawny Bird 1min 10.70s 13 March 2006
  1,600m Seaton Groom 1min 39.00s 13 March 1995

Racing in the Tambo Valley probably commenced sometime in the 1860s. The enormous Bindi Station, some 15 km north-east of Swifts Creek, hosted a large seasonal workforce of shearers to remove the wool from the huge flocks of sheep that had been brought into the area in the few short years after European settlement.

Looking for some entertainment at the end of a hard season of shearing – and a way to spend some of their hard earned money – the shearers would race their horses against each other, wagering on who had the fastest steed.
Gill-Stockman - from Wikimedia Commons
The Stockman by S.T. Gill, (c1855). Rural workers such as stockmen were outstanding horsemen, and many country racing events were born from their competitive spirit.

Origin of the Tambo Valley Racing Club
The first known official races in the Swifts Creek area occurred around the locality of Tongio, about five kilometres north of the present racecourse. Races later shifted to Doctors Flat, about 7 km south of Swifts Creek, and were held on the other side of the Tambo River from the highway.

Some time later they were relocated to Jim Gibson’s property just north of the Swifts Creek township, on an attractive piece of flat land between the highway and the Tambo River. This land is now owned by the Richardson family, and remains the present location of the Tambo Valley racecourse.

Archer, 1856 - from Wikimedia Commons
Archer (c1861). Winner of the first two Melbourne Cups, Archer made his start on the country racing circuits in the late 1850s.

Action in the 2012 race - courtesy of flagstaffotos
Horses and riders battle it out in front of a large crowd in 2012. Photo: flagstaffotos

Other Racing Clubs in the District
Back before the turn of the twentieth century, during the gold rush era, the population in the district was far higher. Additionally in those pre-automobile times horses were the major means of transport, and pony clubs and horse racing were extremely popular. This meant that as well as the Tambo Valley Racing Club at Swifts Creek, the local district was also able to support racing clubs at Ensay, Cassilis, and Omeo.

The Ensay Racing Club held meetings at the Ensay Sports Ground, 17 km south of Swifts Creek. This club survived until 1912, but was forced to fold when the club treasurer vanished with the entire takings following that year’s races – all of ten pounds! The races never ran again, but some history of the event can still be seen at Ensay’s historic Little River Inn.

Cassilis, 10 km north-west of Swifts Creek, which is now just a locality with a few scattered houses, hosted a large population during its gold mining heyday. In addition to its football and other clubs, it was also able to support a racing club. A rapid and severe drop in the population as the mines closed saw all its clubs fold in the early years of the twentieth century. 

The major town in the region, Omeo, 27 km north of Swifts Creek, also had their own racing club. The Omeo & District Racing Club was established in 1876, with a track set out at Hinnomunjie between the towns of Omeo and Benambra. This club still operates today, with their annual Hinnomunjie Picnic Races held on the Saturday of the Labour Day long weekend.

Tambo Valley Racing Club today
Meanwhile racing at Swifts Creek survived to the present day. For many years the club shared the Labour Day long weekend with the nearby Hinnomunjie races, with the Hinnomunjie races held on Saturday, and the Tambo Valley races held on the Labour Day holiday on the Monday. Massive and prolonged bushfires in 2007 saw the event postponed from its usual date and moved back to the Easter long weekend. This proved so popular that a permanent change was made to run the TVRC's picnic races every Easter Sunday.

The name Tambo Valley Racing Club and the Tambo Valley Picnic Races recognise not just the long history of racing at Swifts Creek, but serves as a representation of all the communities throughout the Tambo Valley, past and present.

Sign, track & mountains - courtesy of John O'Neill
The racecourse nestled in the foothills of the Australian Alps. Photo: John O'Neill

Action in the 2006 event - courtesy of flagstaffotos
Hard fought racing on a dry track in 2006. Photo: flagstaffotos