Fashions in the Field: Melbourne Cup Tragedy 2009

The Melbourne Cup has become a national ritual in Australia.

Although not a public holiday, the first Tuesday in November might as well be seeing as entire offices tip out of work dressed in their finest, go and place a bet on the big race (and this year there was a special betting office on the main public concourse opened for the day in the middle of Sydney) and head to the nearest pub to refresh themselves while watching the nags race round the circuit. And drinking too much and spending your money at the bookies seems to be what the Cup Carnival is all about.

Big screens in the city allow punters to watch the progress of their investments anywhere in the city.This year a record Aus $95.6 million was wagered in just Victoria and New south Wales alone. Recession? What recession? Pubs and clubs across the country reported record takings too although, for once, the media held off from their usual moral outrage at public drunkeness and passed off the Nation’s mass inebriation as “high spirits”.

But, apart from the horses, the booze and the gambling, the other grand tradition of the Melbourne Cup Carnival is Fashions in the Field.

Originally launched in 1962 to encourage more women to follow horse racing, the competition has now become one of the most popular elements of the carnival with women donning skimpy outfits and garish hats in order to vie for the grand prize.

And grand the prize is too ; this years winner Elizabeth Pollard, scooped a jackpot that included a Lexus convertible valued at $86,000, $35,000 worth of jewellery, a make up swag package and a shopping spree at sponsors Myers, a large department store.

Prize winning Filly

Elizabeth says she is hoping for world peace and two casks of cheap chardonnay

In fact, Myers proudly boast that Fashions in the Field is “Australia’s largest and most prestigious outdoor fashion event and has cemented its place as the pinnacle fashion event of the Spring Racing Carnival” . Here’s Elizabeth in her winning outfit, and what a magnificent hat she has on too.

But, as with any horse race, behind the story of the victor’s laurels and tales of triumph over adversity there is a darker tale. Nobody ever writes about the horses that fail. The ones that pull up lame or fail to run their best in this, their toughest test.

And so it is with Fashions in the Field. Elizabeth is wafted around the news circuit gushing breathlessly on how exciting and unexpected her win was. She gives the standard answers to how she is going to spend her winnings and gives a hearty endorsement to the sponsor’s products… but does anyone think of the losers?

Exclusive behind the scenes shots from the Melbourne Cup Carnival have been sent to The Notes so here are some shots of a few of the Fashions hopefuls who failed to make the finish.

Sharon Munt

Third Favourite Sharon Munt strained a fetlock and was scratched from the running

The light morning rain meant some fillies found the going somewhat slippery

The light morning rain meant some fillies found the going too slippery

Tragically this runner burst a blood vessel and was painlessly destoyed

Tragically this runner burst a blood vessel and had to be destroyed


Despite last years "GrowlerGate", some runners still forget their numbers and were disqualified

Vodka Cruiser

The entry sponsored by Bacardi Breezer hits trouble on the home straight

The Finish Line

Australian celebrities and local notables gather at the Finish Line for the traditional Group Chunder.

I know it’s a whole year away now but, rest assured, this correspondent is going to make sure he books the best seats for nest year’s Carnival.

Aussie Sport. All Class.

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6 Responses

  1. After some moments of speechlessness after reading this, I have three things to say:

    1) I can’t believe the mess they left behind! Nor can I believe my Nana-like horror at the fact they left the mess!

    2) Alcohol + Australians = terrifying. Yes it happens everywhere, but the social acceptance of such widespread unconciousness seems higher there.

    3) Elizabeth’s outfit. Really? Is that the best they could find? Seems that some basic colour-co-ordination and a very elaborate hat is all it takes to get the car.

  2. Couple of those horses look like they’re going to be ridden by more than one jockey.

  3. Those photos also explain this little piece I saw a couple of days ago about the “do’s and don’ts of the Melbourne Cup” Here’s one of the don’ts:

    “Don’t get the 8.15pm racecourse train from Flemington back to town. The trains from 7pm become x-rated and rail staff must lock the room on Wednesday morning to watch security footage of the late Flemington trains. They probably sell tickets to the viewings.”

  4. Now I know why Australia doesn’t celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Day – they’re all still hungover from Melbourne Cup day!

  5. The first Tuesday in November is a public holiday in Melbourne. The rest of the state of Victoria can choose that day or another to get their quota of 11 days a year.

    Melburnians are patriotically proud that they have the world’s only holiday that honours a horse race.

    • I stand corrected… and so they should be proud!
      I like ANZAC Day too when the sacrifice of generations of soldiers is celebrated by a day long legalisation of the gambling game they played in the trenches…. now that was worth fighting for.

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