Pin a fascinator to your hair, pop open a bottle of champagne and get your cash out ladies, because it’s Melbourne Cup time down under.
This four-day Aussie carnival attracts visitors from all over the world. But you don’t have to be a heavy gambler or horse expert to take part in the event. In fact, the fashion aspect of the Melbourne Cup seems to be equally as important.
So whether you’re going to gamble, going to show off or going to get pissed, here are some tips to making the most out of the races.
When to go
AAMI Victoria Derby Day is opening day featuring some great races to kick off the Cup. Emirates Melbourne Cup Day is the day to see the best races and make the most (or loose the most) money. Emirates Stakes Day closes the carnival with races and live performances.
But Crown Oaks Day…
Now that’s ‘Ladies Day’.
Me to the left with some friends in reserved seating at the Crown Oaks Day in 2010.
The third day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, people don’t pay as much attention to the races this day as they do to style.
This is your day to dress your best, but expect competition. Some women invest a lot of money and time in their ensembles. People all over Australia even go into competition with their looks at Myers Fashions on the Field, which the winner of is announced on Crown Oaks Day.
But it’s all in good fun so just focus on feeling pretty and remember to wear a pink rose, the official flower of Crown Oaks Day.
What to wear
It adds up. Between a stunning dress, great shoes and a mind-blowing fascinator, dressing up for the races can cost quite a bit.
But it doesn’t have to.
My friend Dorcey, to the left, went for a ‘Pretty Woman’ race look. I, to the right, went for a simple black dress from Anthropologie, a vintage-inspired fascinator I found in Brisbane and cowboy boots, which I wear everywhere.
Focus on the fascinator. Race day may be the only day you ever wear one of these things, so make the most of it. The headpieces are made to stand out and they’re the most important part of any girl’s ensemble come race day. So spend the most time, money and effort on this accessory. Nothing is too extreme and the most unusual piece, usually gets the most compliments.
Dress simply. Fascinators are not cheap items. So wearing one may come at the cost of another item. Since these headpieces can be quite detailed, it may be a good idea to dress simple even if cost isn’t a question. You want to stand out, but not have too much going on.
My suggestion-go for a one color cotton dress. I don’t want to say black, because it’s a spring event, full of color. But a simple blue or pink cotton dress from Target won’t break the bank or clash with your headwear. Plus, it will keep you comfortable on what can be a long day.
Ditch the stilettos. These skinny-heeled shoes are always a hassle at the races. Take a shoe that’s already hard to walk in, add a few drinks and force a gal to walk in the grass all day, it won’t end pretty.
You could wear a fantastic pair of sandals, but please backpackers, leave the Havaianas at home. Or you could really make an Aussie statement and wear a pair of Tony Bianco wedges. This popular Australian brand will definitely win you some points with the locals. Plus their wedges are AMAZING this season.
One last tip-bring a shaw or cardigan. It can be a bit chilly in the shade.
Where to sit
Two choices: general admission or reserved seating. But before you pick your ticket based on price, read this.
Where you sit at on Crown Oaks Day will determine what kind of day you have. Either choice presents a new and interesting experience, but be prepared for just how interesting that experience may get.
General admission means lawn seats, which start off quite fun and ideal, ladies looking lovely lounging out on picnic blankets with champagne, but gets messy. It’s kind of a running Aussie joke how ridiculous people get on the lawn come ladies day. Despite the classy get-ups, girls and guys alike seem to be at their trashiest down here. It’s a great time, but be prepared for it. Adult general admission costs $61 on Crown Oaks Day.
The scene at the the lawn after the races had finished at Crown Oaks Day in 2010.
With reserved seating you’re looking to pay at least $30 more. But with that $30 comes shelter from the rain or extremely strong Melbourne sun, you’re guaranteed at least one of them. It means seats, clean toilets and the ability to access food and event zones not included in general admission.
Who to bet on
If you don’t know who to pick or have never even watched a horse race in your life, don’t worry. There are still ways you can bet and maybe even win.
You can go for what most clueless people do and pick out the horse with the cutest or most interesting name or you can get strategic.
After losing a few times I used a trick from one of my old journalism professors and headed to the smokers section. You don’t have to smoke, just carry a lighter. You’d be surprised at the things you can learn when you offer someone a light.
I ended up talking to a group of older men about the races. I told them I’d been losing and they gave me their expert opinions on who to bet on in the next race. I decided to go with it and guess what, they were right. I actually won quite a bit of money thanks to those guys.
I surprisingly won a lot of money at Crown Oaks Day in 2010.
How to get there
All race days throughout the Melbourne Cup are located at Flemington Racecourse. According to the Melbourne Cup website, “Special race trains will depart Flinders Street (Platforms 8 & 9), stopping at Southern Cross station (Platform 14) and North Melbourne (Platform 6), then express to Flemington.”
This is your best bet for getting to and from the racecourse from the city center. The trains are quite full to and from the stadium, but Metlink runs more than usual on race days, so you will get there and back. I suggest buying day passes the day before.
The train ride back to Flinders Street Station at the end of Crown Oaks Day 2010 was packed.
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