The first book of its kind in Australia, A Year on the Punt is the outcome of a year's journey through the remote and also mainstream country carnivals that have etched their place in our cultural history, a history that is fast disappearing under the march of modern commercialism. John takes his reader to 20 race meetings: some of them big events, some of them little known, but all unique and enthralling. From the dust of Birdsville to the rainforests of Cooktown, the beauty of Hanging Rock, down to the colonial surrounds of Longford in Tasmania, we discover what makes the heart of Australian racing tick. We are there through the writer s ups and downs on the punt, his falling out with authorities, meeting the big bookies and punters, the controversy, the ring-ins, the elite and the mugs. We learn for the first time the Aboriginal word for horse racing, meet champion jockey Damien Oliver at Kalgoorlie races where his father was killed in a race fall, bump into a federal minister, Amanda Vanstone, at Oakbank races, meet an ex-Reserve Bank Governor Bernie Fraser, now a horse trainer, at Gundagai races.
We also learn a lot about the larrikins of the turf, the Chinese-Australian jockey who helped Arwon win the Melbourne Cup, learn about Australia's first female rider who masqueraded as a man most of her life in the Cairns area, discover the stupidity of the 1962 Pepperwood ring-in at Mt Garnet, where even the stewards were aware of the ring-in before it happened, the illegal races during the second World war held on the Atherton Tablelands. We also meet the rising stars, the young aspiring trainers and jockeys that make country racing what it is today.