Victoria’s Racing Fever
All eyes are on Melbourne this month for the world-famous Melbourne Cup, writes Jenny Burns.
VICTORIA IS IN THE MIDST of a great party—the Spring Racing Carnival. As well as celebrating the feats of magnificent thoroughbreds, the carnival features all the essential elements of a great party.
There’s the chance to get dressed up in your finest (or in the case of some events your most bizarre outfit), enjoy great food and wine and generally just have fun.
Of course, this also usually means spending some money! It’s estimated those attending last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival purchased 295,397 individual fashion items including 49,067 pairs of shoes, 46,448 dresses, 11,659 suits and 59,665 hats and fascinators. They also spent $23.6 million on meals, food and beverages and $45.2 million on betting.
Similar figures are expected at this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, which starts on Saturday 4 November with AAMI Victoria Derby Day and finishes on Saturday 11 November with Emirates Stakes Day.
Run at Flemington Racecourse, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is regarded by many as the spring racing highlight with the Melbourne Cup (this year run on Tuesday 7 November) the standout event.
It’s known as ‘the race that stops the nation’ as almost the entire country stops to watch the race at 3pm. In Melbourne it’s even a public holiday.
Dating back to 1861, the Cup leaves an impression on all who attend. In 1895 American writer Mark Twain wrote of his experiences: “They come a hundred thousand strong and they pack the spacious grounds and grandstands and make a spectacle such as is never to be seen elsewhere.”
While little has changed over the years in terms of the popularity of the Cup, there have been some major changes. The 3,200-metre race is now one of the world’s richest, offering A$6.25 million in prize money. More and more international horses are a feature of the race thanks in part to Irish trainer Dermot Weld who, in 1993, was a winner with Vintage Crop. Since then horses from Germany, Ireland, Japan and France have won the race.
International horses are again expected to play a major role in this year’s Cup. However, a word of warning—if the horse you fancy is in
barrier 18, beware! No horse has won from here since barriers were introduced in 1924. Barriers five and 10 have been the most successful over the past 25 years, with four wins apiece. But then again omens are made to be broken. No female jockey had won the Cup until 2015 when Michelle Payne rode Prince of Penzance to victory.
While the Cup is the best known of the races during the carnival there’s also great racing on all other days. Derby Day is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious days of racing in Australasia. There are four elite races including the $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby, Australia’s premier staying classic for three-year-olds.
The Kennedy Oaks, held on Thursday 9 November, attracts the top three-year-old fillies with $1 million in prize money up for grabs.
Racing on the final day of the carnival includes the $2 million weight-for-age race, the Emirates Stakes.
Although the horses are the undisputed heroes of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the accompanying fashion frenzy attracts nearly as much attention and is often just as competitive! Men and women alike relish the opportunity to dress in their finest race-wear.
Myer Fashions on the Field at Flemington is one Australia’s largest and most prestigious outdoor fashion events. This year men and women are competing for prizes worth $250,000. There are awards for the best men’s and women’s racewear as well as prizes for the best design and millinery. Even youngsters get in on the act with awards for the best dressed junior and senior boys and girls.
Tradition dictates black and white is the go on Derby Day. Like all the four days it also has an official flower—the blue cornflower.
Fashions on Cup Day range from the classic to exotic to totally outrageous. Hats are essential. The flower for Cup Day is the yellow rose.
For many the fashion stakes are at their highest on Kennedy Oaks Day, also known as Ladies Day. It’s the day when women of all ages come together and celebrate feminine elegance. This is the time for romantic looks and delicate fabrics. A pink rose is the flower of the day. On the final day of the carnival, Emirates Stakes Day, it’s the time for youngsters to take centre stage with the judging of the young fashion awards. A red rose is the flower of the day.
All Fashion on the Field competitions are based at The Park, a 10,000-square-metre area within Flemington which is free for all race-goers. A two-storey space has been built especially for the competition. It features dual runways, allowing spectators and judges a 360-degree view of competitors, beauty stations allowing for ‘makeup touch-ups’ and a bar.
Numerous other restaurants and bars are also calling The Park home during the carnival. The Park is also the venue for a number of local music acts and DJS. There are also plenty of activities for youngsters, especially on Emirates Stakes Day.
The Melbourne Cup carnival is so popular that tickets are limited and must be pre-purchased, visit melbournecup.com/tickets for more information.
While the Melbourne Cup Carnival takes centre stage in November, there are many other great race days during the month including a number of country race meetings. As well as offering some fantastic racing these meetings are also great fun. There are great horses to watch, lots of good food and wine and plenty of entertainment.
For more information on the Spring Racing Carnival visit springracingcarnival.com.au
Patrons arrive at The Park on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse on November 1, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images/getty Images for the VRC.
The Melbourne Cup trophy is on display on Emirates Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse on November 1, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images/getty Images for the VRC. Kerrin Mcevoy riding Almandin celebrates winning race 7, the Emirates Melbourne Cup on Melbourne Cup Day at Flemington Racecourse on November 1, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images/getty Images for the VRC.
Hugh Bowman rides Le Romain to win race eight, the Cantala Stakes on Derby Day at Flemington Racecourse on October 29, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Getty Images/getty Images for the VRC.