Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup Day is literally “the race that stops a nation.” A declared public holiday in metropolitan Melbourne, this translates into no school, no work and for many, a four day weekend. The race grounds are packed and there are watch parties at bars, restaurants, churches(!) and private homes. It’s a really big deal. In the months leading up to Melbourne Cup Carnival week, you see billboards, tram art and street banners, all promoting the event. Clothing stores display the latest must-haves in men’s and women’s “Cup Day fashions.” It’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement!
The Melbourne Cup Carnival is actually a week of big races. In addition to Cup Day, there is Thursday’s Crown Oaks Day (for the ladies), Saturday’s Stakes Day (family oriented and the close of the Carnival) and the prestigious kick-off race, which we attended today – Victoria Derby Day. For many, Derby Day is must on the social calendar, so naturally, Frank and I decided we must go!
Yesterday Frank ran out and got the racing forms so he could outline rough picks. He’s into the “well, this expert said this” and “she just won her last three races,” while I’m of the school, “that name reminds me of…” and “what colors is the jockey wearing?”
Race Day morning. We woke to rain and a chilly 50 degrees. Although the guidelines for Derby Day recommended morning suits for men, Frank decided to forego style for warmth and threw on some jeans and layered sweaters — not like he brought fancy clothes on this trip anyway! I decided to be practical, too, opting for pants instead of a dress, but adhering to the women’s black and white color scheme. We were so glad we dressed warm! It was freezing!
Flemington is Australia’s most famous racecourse. It is beautiful — roses everywhere and overlooking the Melbourne city skyline. With a capacity of 120,000 people, the course is accessible by car, tram, special direct trains and river craft. We took the train, crammed with young and old, all nattily dressed. Men were in suits and many of the women had done-up hair and wore fascinators, those fancy, angled little hats. (I had tried a couple on when we were in Adelaide but didn’t purchase one. They aren’t cheap and at that point, I didn’t know we were going.) Ladies were dressed to the nines and I noted in amazement the many young girls who “stylishly” strolled the outdoor promenades paraded in spiked heels with bare legs and sleeveless short dresses. Frank watched in awe at how tight those short dresses were!
Our reserved seats were covered, which protected us from the occasional rain. A kind usher befriended us and gave us wristbands so we could go inside the VIP rooms. There we could thaw, continue to enjoy the fashion parade and bet. Over the course of the day, Frank’s betting regimen proved much more successful than mine. He won two trifectas! I didn’t win any but we came out a bit ahead for the day. And did we feel out of place by not dressing fancy? Well, let me tell you. At the end of the day, the cold, the wind, the rain, the uncomfortable shoes and the alcohol had many race fans looking much less fashionable than they did at the start of the day! Frank and I? Well, we were fine. We trained it back and had a nice dinner with his winnings! Cheers!