The Palmerston North Gold Cup has had a successful sophomore year in its quest to become one of New Zealand’s premiere racing events, organisers say.
Festival organiser Andre Neill said the Gold Cup’s second year had been a roaring success.
Neill estimated more than 5000 people attended the festival this year, although the final figures were still to be determined.
Organisers were pleased with the stream of positive feedback from a public delighted by a funfilled week of music, games, fashion and the big Awapuni race day on Saturday, he said.
One of Neill’s favourite events was the celebrity sulky races.
This year, Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway returned to the track – only to narrowly lose his Gold Cup title to Black Ferns star Selica Winiata.
A Government minister racing against a top athlete as they whip around the track in a lightweight horse-cart was an unusual spectacle, Neill said.
"It’s one of the unique matchups you’d only see at the Gold Cup."
Neill said, as the local MP, Lees-Galloway had been an enthusiastic supporter of the fledgling race festival since its planning stages last year.
"He was very affable and keen, he couldn’t wait to get involved. And Iain’s still pretty eager to come back next year and try to retake his title."
If Lees-Galloway’s governmental responsibilities ever got in the way, or he bowed out for any reason, Neill thought it’d be great to get another politician to take up the reins.
"I think it could become a great tradition – the politician versus the sports star, the athlete versus the pen-pusher."
Neill said one of the main races was a particularly talented and closely contested event in New Zealand’s premier 2-year-old group one race.
"It certainly didn’t let anyone down.
"One of the top fillies in the country, from a top stable, won the race in a very competitive field this year."
The Fashion on the Field competition saw 50 race-day fashionistas from around the country, strut the catwalk to see which man and woman had the sharpest sartorial game.
Palmerston North woman Samantha Flipp took out the supreme award with an outfit based around a classic black dress.
Flipp’s outfit was custommade, based on her own design, by Palmerston North-based fashion designer Pene Peneha and milliner Anel Heyman.
"So, I can’t take the credit, really. I went in with a plan in my head, but they made it come to life."
She didn’t think the fact two of the judges had helped create her outfit was a unique advantage – Peneha and Heyman had at least a little bit of a hand in most of the competitors’ outfits, she said.
One of Flipp’s favourites was the beautiful green dress worn by the woman who came in as runner-up, she said.
But she was most impressed by the keen eye for style displayed by the under-25s category winner, Olivia McCabe.
Flipp said McCabe had put together an incredible ensemble, with a simple white and black halter top and plain black skirt contrasted with an elaborate black mesh hat and complex cape made of black flowers.
"And she put it all together for under $50, all from the op-shop.’’
Fashion On The Field supreme winner Samantha Flipp gets her prize from judge Pene Peneha, and event organiser Georgia Bergerson.