Each year, the tropical city of Darwin hosts the month-long carnival, which is made up of eight packed race days, and a number of glitzy events – from the Carnival Launch on the lawns of the Darwin Turf Club to the Qantas Darwin Turf Club Gala Ball, where those in attendance are showered in five-star food and beverage, entertainment, light shows, and fireworks to rival even those from interstate.
The star-studded Ladbrokes Let’s Talk Racing Luncheon and the Magic Millions Tried Horse Sale are among the most popular events over the month.
And the fashion in the Ladies’ Day Luncheon easily competes with those in Melbourne or Sydney. It’s a dazzling event, which draws tourists not just for its laidback charm or the predictable warm weather and cool nights, but the on-the-edge-of your- seat racing and the Darwin way of life we all know and love to share.
A weekend of racing can easily be extended with a fishing charter or a night in a national park – Darwin turns it on for the tourists, and it keeps them coming back year after year.
With a growing 17,000 people on course for the Great Northern Darwin Cup Day, it was inevitable that management of the Darwin Turf Club had to start thinking about the future.
The warm weather and racing were great, but was it enough to keep people coming back? The interest in the carnival was always guaranteed, and word of mouth spread like wildfire in the southern states, but as punters demanded more, it became inevitable that new facilities were required.
It’s a gamble to change something that isn’t broken, but it was a gamble that saw two new facilities erected on the grounds – Silks Darwin and the New Public Stand.
With the new facilities also came a new management team. Chief executive Brad Morgan was bought in to facilitate the opening of both venues.
With an extensive career in the hospitality and gaming industry, Brad has brought a myriad of experience to the role. Before taking the job, he ran the Brisbane Broncos licensed club for more than four years and was then headhunted to be chief executive of Lasseters hotel casino in Alice Springs.
He then took over Darwin’s hotel-casino but was headhunted again – this time by businessman Chris Morris to manage the Jupiters casino in Townsville.
Brad and his wife Chrissy have five kids – twin boys Ethan and Lachlan, who live in Brisbane and are following their rugby dreams, Ben, an experienced chef, also in Brisbane, and two daughters, Olivia and Angela, who live in Darwin and have started their own families.
“Having lived in Darwin before, I knew the lay of the land and, of course, I was looking forward to the opportunity to come back and be closer to the girls and the grandkids,” he says.
Not without controversy and with the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, the breathtaking public stand boasts three levels of state of- the-art facilities, including six air-conditioned corporate boxes and a function floor with a commercial kitchen, TAB facilities and bar.
The ground floor is open to the public each race day and can be transformed for both the wet and dry season conditions, with the welcomed addition of tap beer chilled to the perfect temperature.
“The response to the corporate boxes has been overwhelming, to say the least. We had them booked out for each day of the carnival this year, with some even rebooking for next year,” Morgan said.
“This venue is so much more than something for race days,” Brad says. “It gives people a whole new outlook on what functions can be held here – gala dinners, entire expos, luncheons … you name it.
“We’re now able to host more and are developing packages for anything from three-storey functions to something as simple as a race-day Christmas party in a corporate box.”
The success of Silks Darwin speaks for itself. It only opened on June 5, but already has more than 7000 members, who enjoy coming for the good food, the 50-metre long breezy deck and the rooftop overlooking the track.
The venue was a key player during this year’s carnival and sold out of Darwin Cup packages within days. “The atmosphere on race days is fantastic,” Brad says.
“The horses come thundering around the final bend right in front of Silks – there’s no track in Australia where you can do that. It’s a great experience. “Many people have commented that Silks is just what they were looking for.”
Brad says while 2020 came with extreme challenges, it has so far been a success. “We’ve put together a fantastic team and we are so proud we can create something that employs so many people. “We believe we’ve set a new benchmark for the Territory, which gives us credibility to begin work on the rest of our masterplans.”
To inquire about holding a function at Darwin Turf Club, contact sales executive Nandini Puranik on 08 8923 4222
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org