A Day At The Races In Melbourne
This weekend I visited Melbourne to attend the Emirates Stakes Day, the final day in the Melbourne Cup Spring Carnival in Melbourne.
Stakes Day is considered the family day of the carnival and is therefore more relaxed and colourful. Having been to a lot of race meetings in Adelaide over the years, there is definately an uplift in fashion and race wear than you find at our local track, Morphettville, where jeans and a t-shirt reign!
We were fortunate to be in the Birdcage enclosure, which where people do business and celebrities mingle with the corporates. It's a place of high fashion, celebrity watching and drinking at lot of champagne. For racing purists, it's not the best place to bet and watch the horses. In fact where we were located you couldn't see the track...you had to leave to find the horses! But that's not the point of the Birdcage, it's a place to be and to be seen, the horses are secondary.
Flemington is very strick on dress code. Men must wear a suit and tie and the jacket must remain on except in the hotter months of December to February. Luckily for us the weather was kind with a pleasant 22 celcuis degree day.
For women the dress code is a mile long to give woman enough information about what to wear. Basically a designer race dress, heels and a fascinator seem to be the most appropriate.
What to do
If you are in the Birdcage or another of the corporate facilities I recommend that you get out from time to time to experience what the event is about...horses and horse racing.
The Stalls & Mounting Yard
This is one of my favourite parts of a race course. You can get to see the horses waiting for their race, check out how they look in the mounting yard and see how they are behaving. We went for a wander around the stalls and found a horse we had decided to back. Essay Raider was a calm, small race horse and her trainer was quietly talking to him before the race. We liked him so much that we went straight to the bookies to back it. While it didn't win we still felt that we were connected in some small way to this horse and it's outcome in the race.
The Flats are the cheap seats at a race course. They are the general admission area in front of the grandstand. This is where families and friends set up picnic rugs and hampers to enjoy a day at the races. Champagne is usually flowing in this area and people are there to not only enjoy the races, but also to see the racing.
Each year my family and I go to the Boxing Day races, go to the flats with a picnic rug and enjoy an absolute fantastic family day with Xmas day leftovers. The Boxing Day races in Adelaide is truly a family affair with rides for the kids, betting for the adults and a chance to get the Xmas day stresses out of the system!
This is my favourite part of being at a race course. Hearing and seeing those horses galloping down the straight is really a sight to behold. Just prior to the race I find a piece of spare grass near the rail so that I get to experience the sight and sound really close up. It's amazing how those jockeys can hold on and get that horse home so fast. It's a real skill and art form.
Horse racing is associated with betting on the outcome of the race. I have a few simple rules when betting at the track. I know that I can't win overall and that the bookie or TAB always wins. So I keep my bets small (no more than $5 per race) and bet only what I can afford to lose. I also try a few quinellas, trifectas and doubles to maximise a return for a limited outlay.
Another tip is to check what the Tote (TAB) is paying against what the bookies are offerring - always take the option with the best odds.
So, how did I go? Overall for the day I dropped $35. I had a couple of good wins, but like most punters this Spring Carnival, the favourites didn't win and neither did we. Looks like it was a good return for the bookies...that's why I never bet big.
Melbourne is a great city and one of the most 'sporting' cities in the world. Spring racing in October and November is as important as AFL footy in the winter and cricket in the Summer.
We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, overlooking the Yarra River and facing Southbank where the Casino is located. For breakfast we wandered down the Yarra and found the Old Boastshed that had organic free range eggs and great coffee for breakfast.
So, if you are considering a visit to the races in Melbourne I can highly recommend it and I hope that these basic tips make your day out worthwhile. Cheers Michael