Off to the Races
Fillies, fashion and frivolity all come to the fore in Victoria during October as the Spring Racing Carnival takes centre stage. By Jenny Burns.
VICTORIANS’ LOVE OF a great party is legendary and the Spring Racing Carnival is one of our biggest celebrations with the best horses, fashion aficionados, celebrities and those who just love a good party in attendance.
This year’s carnival, which started on 1 September and finishes on 25 November, features 136 race meetings. The carnival continues to command strong interest on the world stage with a number of international horses again expected to compete for the $77 million in prize money on offer.
Many of these horses will be in action at the BMW Caulfield Cup Carnival which starts on Saturday 14 October with Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas Day. This is always a popular meeting with purists, thanks to the number of high quality races on the program including Victoria’s premier mile classic race for three-year-olds.
On 18 October it’s Catanach’s Jewellers Blue Sapphire Stakes Day which sees the country’s best young sprinters go hoof-to-hoof vying for the coveted crown of Blue Sapphire champion.
The flagship event, the $3.15 million BMW Caulfield Cup, the world’s richest turf handicap over 2,400 metres, is run on 21 October.
Attention then turns to Moonee Valley for the Cox Plate Carnival. The carnival incorporates two race meetings, starting on Friday 27 October with Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes Night. The Manikato Stakes sees the nation’s best sprinters clash for a share of $1 million in Australia’s richest thoroughbred race under lights.
On Saturday 28 October it’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate Day, which features Australia’s premier weight for age championship race, the $3 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
This race is regarded as the best weight for age race in Australasia.
Racing heroes from yesteryear, including Phar Lap and Tulloch, together with modern champions such as Might and Power, Sunline, Northerly and the great champion mare Makybe Diva, have etched their names on the W.S. Cox Plate honour roll. All eyes this year will be on Winx, the wonder mare aiming to become only the second horse in history to win the Cox Plate three years in a row. She’s won her latest 20 races so hopes are high for another victory thus cementing her racing immortality.
After the Cox Plate the spotlight turns to Flemington racecourse and the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The carnival gets underway on 4 November with AAMI Victoria Derby Day.
Derby Day is considered by most racing purists to be the best single day of thoroughbred racing in Australia.
On 7 November the pinnacle of the Spring Racing Carnival, the Emirates Melbourne Cup, takes centre stage. The third day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival is Kennedy Oaks Day on 9 November, traditionally known as Ladies Day. The racing highlight is the Kennedy Oaks, a classic for three-year-old fillies.
The Melbourne Cup Carnival concludes on 11 November with Emirates Stakes Day. Highlights include the 1600-metre event, the Emirates Stakes.
While for some the racing is the highlight of the carnival for others it’s the fashion. Last year, racegoers spent almost $60 million on dresses, hats, suits and grooming to ensure they looked their best at the racetrack. Given such outlays it’s not surprising to discover Fashion on the Fields competitions can be just as competitive as the action on the track! Further boosting the interest is the prize money on offer for the best outfits. During the Caulfield Cup Carnival thousands of dollars are on offer. Entrants in Myer Fashion on the Field competition, run during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, are competing for around $250,000 worth of prizes.
Even the country race clubs get in on the act with the 26 country cup meetings offering thousands of dollars in prizes to the fashion savvy.
Country race meetings are an important component of the Spring Racing Carnival. This year 40 clubs will hold race days during the carnival.
They range from once-a-year clubs to regional Victoria’s largest, with rewards to match. The largest of the races, TAB Cranbourne Cup (15 October) bet365 Geelong Cup (25 October), Jayco Bendigo Cup (1 November) and Sportsbet.com.au Ballarat Cup (25 November) all offer prize money of $300,000.
As well as offering some fantastic racing, these meetings are also great fun. Like the major Melbourne race days there’s plenty of live entertainment.
There’s also the chance to catch up with friends while enjoying some great food and wine which can be as important to some as the racing and fashion.
As a visit to The Champions: Thoroughbred Racing Gallery (nsm.org.au), reveals, such celebrations aren’t new. Located within the National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the gallery features some of the oldest racing footage from around the country. Needless to say there are many happy faces in the crowd! The gallery examines the origins and logistics of racing and the colour and spectacle of race day fashions. There are plenty of treasures on show including a bridle and horseshoe worn by Phar Lap at Agua Caliente and all of champion trainer Bart Cummings’ dozen Melbourne Cup trophies.
Another highlight is an articulated skeleton of Carbine, the champion racehorse of the 1880s and 1890s.
There are plenty of champions at Living Legends (livinglegends.org.au) and as an added bonus they are alive and kicking!
Located within Woodlands Historic Park at Greenvale (six minutes from Melbourne Airport), Living Legends is home to 19 of Australia’s finest retired champion racehorses including winners of the Melbourne Cup, Japan Cup, Caulfield Cup, Australian Cup and Cox Plate. You can observe the horses in their paddock or join a guided tour. Tours include information about the horses and their racing history. There’s also a chance to feed several of the champions and learn more about their personalities and why they are champions. It seems many have the same attributes— mental toughness and the ability to relax. The same could be said of party-loving race patrons during the Spring Racing Carnival!
Dunkeld Racing Club is one of a number of country clubs to hold meetings during the Spring Racing Carnival. Photo: Racing Photos.
Caulfield Cup. Photo: Racing Photos. Winx. Photo: Racing Photos. Caulfield Cup. Photo: Racing Photos.