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Australia: A winner's cup for camel racing? Yes, in Alice Springs

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Camel races for charity in Australia's Northern Territory draw 5,000 spectators.
A winner's cup for camel races? Of course, in Australia's Alice Springs

If World Cup soccer isn't your thing, maybe Australia's quirky Camel Cup is.

Every July the outback town of Alice Springs in the country's Northern Territory devotes a day to racing these "ships of the desert." What's now known as the Lasseters Camel Cup was started in 1970 to raise funds for local charities.

How hard is this contest? Camels are notoriously temperamental. "Racing them can prove a nightmare for riders and handlers but fantastic viewing for spectators," the event's website says. Camels run up to 40 mph on a track created for the event, a spokeswoman says.

But not just anyone can compete. Only professional riders and their camels are allowed to enter the races. Last year, Hannah Purss, 24, rode to victory to claim the Gold Camel Cup and the $1,700 in prize money.

Among the races, there's a "honeymoon handicap" where husbands start off on camels and must stop to pick up their brides before galloping to the finish. Between races there's bellydancing and rickshaw races where two riders and two haulers switch places midway through the course.

And the 5,000 spectators drawn to the event each year are encouraged to wear Kentucky Derby-style hats too.

The 2014 Camel Cup will be held at Blatherskite Park on July 12. Tickets cost $17 Australian ($15 U.S.) for adults; children 12 and younger get in free.

Info: Lasseters Camel Cup

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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