March Public Holiday in South Australia falls on the second Monday of every March and is also known as Adelaide Cup since the main event of this holiday, the Adelaide Cup horse race, occurs at this time.
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While Adelaide Cup has held official holiday status since only 1973, the race itself has been going on since 1864. Originally, it took place in May but was moved to its present date in 2006 to take advantage of fairer weather and generate more income.
Adelaide Cup is the second-oldest horse race in Australia, only the Melbourne Cup outdating it. It is held at the Morphettville Racecourse in Morphettville, which is a suburb of Adelaide, South Australia’s capital and largest city.
Originally, the race was a distance of 13 furlongs but was later raised to 16 furlongs and, finally, put on the metric system for a 3,200-meter race. That translates into about two miles. Once a “Group One” race, it is now “Group Two” but still draws the best jockeys and horses in South Australia into the action, along with some from other Australian states. Partly, they come just to test their horses’ durability in what is a relatively long race, the prize winnings of $400,000 (Australian Dollars) and the flurry of betting going on are also factors.
There are actually eight races that occur during the Adelaide Cup, the first commencing around noon. Each race is spaced about 40 minutes from the last one, giving the crowd a chance to place bets, get refreshments, and socialise. Since the Adelaide Cup Carnival is going on nearby, there is more to do than “just watch horses,” and since March Public Holiday creates a three-day weekend, many go out on the town or the countryside, instead of or in addition to attending the Adelaide Cup.
Things for the tourist to do if in South Australia for March Public Holiday include:
- Attend the main event Morphettville Racecourse. Many dress up in their finest clothes before going, and some even get picked to join a fashion show. You need not dress “fancy” to attend, however, and there will be live music, the Adelaide Cup Carnival, and gourmet foods and drinks for sale. You could also watch the Adelaide Cup on TV, however, if you prefer to avoid the crowds.
- Tour the city of Adelaide. It is surrounded by parks that run along the Torrens River, and there are “tourable” wineries and vineyards in the nearby Adelaide Hills. The city itself has numerous old churches and is even nicknamed “The City of Churches.” It also has many bustling markets downtown and museums, such as the South Australian Museum, with its natural history displays, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, with its focus on Aboriginal artwork.
- It will summer in the Southern Hemisphere, so there is no better time to take a short trip Kangaroo Island, just south of Adelaide. Besides kangaroos, you can see other wildlife like koala “bears,” wallabies, and native birds. The island is home to Flinders Chase National Park, where you can see the animals in their natural environment. Also in the park are two interesting rock formations: Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch, the latter being next door to seal colony.