Exploring the origins of a catchcry known throughout the Australian racing industry.

Story John Dunn  Photo Andrew Chapman

At first glance it seems there’s not much to Manangatang, a mere dot on the map of the Mallee in Victoria’s north-west. A pub, a post office, police station and a handful of shops. Wheat, sheep, cows and birds are notable town features, but it’s horses that really set ‘Manang’ apart.

Horses have been the heart and hoof beat here almost since the railway from Chillingollah was extended in 1914 and the town proclaimed in 1915, with the first Manangatang races held on Easter Monday in 1917. A racing club was officially formed in the 1920s (and re-formed in 1948). 

Now the town’s annual cup has become an iconic picnic-racing event, that is as celebrated in Victoria as the Birdsville Races are nationally. The races have given birth to a catchcry well-known throughout Australia: “They’re racing at Manangatang”. You’ll hear it almost as far away from the town as you can get – at Broome in the Kimberley and near the tip of Cape York, as Manangatang Racing Club president Neville Arentz discovered recently when holidaying at Punsand Bay. “A bloke in the bar asked where I was from and when I told him he called out, ‘They’re racing at Manangatang!’”

This story excerpt is from Issue #143

Outback Magazine: June/July 2022