Gwenda off to the races
Gwenda Tait ■ has been part of the local racing scene since the early 1970s
MOST of Gwenda Tait’s memories are tied up with a racetrack.
The first date with her husband, Ron.
Their official engagement announcement.
First prizes for the family racehorse.
Fashion accolades for her grandchildren.
It all happened trackside, the thunder of hooves a background noise Gwenda has come to associate with good times and family.
“When I met Ron I was 17, and our first outing was to the Dederang picnic races,” Gwenda said.
“I guess I’ve been involved ever since then.”
Ron’s father, Doug, was one of the few to both own and train his own racehorses, travelling across the state chasing cup glory.
Ron followed in his footsteps, the Tait men happiest on the family farm at Bonnie Doon, stop watches clicking as the horses raced past.
“They always worked at it as a partnership,” Gwenda said.
“I guess it brought them together, really.”
Because of the family involvement, Gwenda found herself marrying into a racing fraternity.
“It just became my life - every fortnight we were going to a race meet somewhere,” she said.
“The day we announced our engagement we had a runner at Moonee Valley.”
Although Gwenda has never been a horse rider herself, she has always taken a keen interest in fashion.
While the boys were out giving last minute instructions to the jockey, Gwenda found herself watching the endless parades of fashions.
She learnt quickly that classic styles are always in, and there is never, ever, a reason to wear thongs.
Over the last few years, Gwenda has found herself not only involved with the Merton Race Club, but responsible for the running of the fashions during the event.
“I organised the fashions at the Mansfield Race Club for years, but Merton is different – it’s really for families; there are some locals that have been coming every year for 150 years, across three and four generations,” she said.
Nothing says summer in Mansfield like the thunder of hooves as thoroughbreds turn the final corner, streaming for home at the annual Merton New Year’s Day Picnics.
A time honoured tradition, the Merton Races are an outing all about families.
Forget rowdy party goers, this is a place for families to bring a picnic, a glass of wine and relax under the shade of the trees.
This year there will be a renewed focus on old time families sponsoring the fashions, in memory of those who have passed on.
Names like the Cummins, Dolling, Mitchell and Purcell have all sponsored an event.
Gwenda, who will be there throughout the day, said it was about having fun – but she does have some tips for those looking to put their best foot forward . Gwenda’s race tips: Always have something on your head or wear a headpiece; Accessories are always in; Be dressed for the occasion – if it’s cold, wear a jacket;
Don’t come dressed like you are heading to the beach or a night club; Don’t show too much skin; Classic styles are always in. For the men:
Wear a hat;
Choose subtle accessories; Wear suitable shoes.
For more details on the Merton Races, go to https://country.racing. com/merton.
FROM THEN TILL NOW: Gwenda Tait has been a racegoer from the moment she met her husband, Ron. She is pictured here back in 1988 at the Mansfield Races. STILL GOT IT: Gwenda will be a judge at this year’s Merton Fashions on the Field.