The average Australian probably knows more about horseracing than most of the world.
Whether it's a fleeting, same-time-next-year affair with the Melbourne Cup, a picnic on the lawn at a country track, a casual punt on a Saturday or a full-on relationship, Australians have a general awareness of the pastime that is one of their country's biggest industries.
But for those who want to get more involved, the opportunities are many and varied.
Racing began in Australia in the first years of settlement with the first official track located in Sydney's Hyde Park. As cities and towns emerged around the country they invariably included two essentials: a pub and a racetrack. In some cases they got several of each. Melbourne and Sydney, for example, ended up with four racetracks - more than any other major city in the world.
If there is one race that every Australian knows something about it is the Melbourne Cup. The race was first run at Flemington in 1861 and it is an institution that has captured the spirit of Australia and its people.
But it doesn't own the copyright. The same traditions and folklore have grown at tracks all over the country, whether they race once a week or once a year.
Like Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert, 1600km north of Adelaide and the same distance west of Brisbane. They held the first meeting at Birdsville in 1882 and have maintained the tradition, almost every year since. Every September the permanent population of 115 swells to 5000 for the two-day meeting.
They race for a lot less than the $6.2m of the Melbourne Cup, but as they do at every other track, country or city, the crowd at Birdsville cheers just as loudly and celebrates with just as much enthusiasm.
With around 70,000 owners or part-owners of racehorses, Australia has the highest direct participation rate of any country in the world. The 36,086 horses that raced in Australia in 2014-15, ran in 19,000 races at 2,634 meetings. They were trained by 3680 trainers and ridden by almost 964 professional jockeys.
And they did battle for a share of $600 million in prizemoney. Only in Japan and America is more prizemoney available.
Closely-linked to the prizemoney level is the betting turnover that funds it. Australians wagered $15.8 billion on Thoroughbred racing alone in 2014-15, compared to $13 billion on other codes and sports. The only countries to turn over more are Japan and Britain.
It all makes for an environment that gives those who take a punt and buy a racehorse, the best chance of getting something back. Or maybe even a lot.
The Grand Finals of Australian Racing
With almost $20 million in prize money on offer The Championships, hosted by the Australian Turf Club, is quickly becoming one of the most competitive racing carnivals in the world for local, national and international participants.
Now into its third year, The Championships features twelve Championship races including eight Group 1 events, staged across two first-class Saturdays in April. It is a dazzling array of time-honoured races across each age and distance category.
In 2015 a new component was added to The Championships with the Country & Provincial Series. There are seven country races and five provincial races held across the state with the winners and placegetters invited to participate in the finals on Day 1 & 2 of The Championships at Royal Randwick.
Day One on 2 April features the open sprint championship, the $2.5 million Darley TJ Smith Stakes, the $3 million mile championship of Australian racing, The Star Doncaster Mile and the classic $2 million BMW Australian Derby.
Day Two at Royal Randwick on 9 April holds the world’s richest 2000m turf race, the Group 1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes, worth $4 million, the Group 1 Cellarbrations Queen of the Turf Stakes, the Group 1 Australian Oaks and Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup over 3200m, now worth $2 million, and a cool $1.2 million to the winner.
With almost $20 million in prize money on offer The Championships, hosted by the Australian Turf Club, is quickly becoming one of the most competitive racing carnivals in the world... read more