Attending Melbourne Cup (like actual Melbourne Cup, not a pretend pub Melbourne Cup where you’re gathered around the big screen TV with a bunch of brightly coloured feathers on your head) has been on my official New Year’s Eve-set bucket list ever since 2009. At the start of 2014, I again routinely made a pact with my PR friend from Adelaide, Alison, that this year would be different and we’d indeed lose our Melbourne Cup virginity.
Just like every other year, I fully anticipated that the end of 2014 would roll around and once again I’d just file that one under ‘unaccomplished New Year’s resolutions’. But no, last year, I finally frocked up for Flemington!
Although I don’t think I realised how many VERY important decisions needed to be made to finally get this life event ticked off.
VERY important decision #1: What to wear to Melbourne Cup?
After doing my research (i.e. reading Cosmopolitan), I learnt that a good Melbourne Cup outfit has an injection of colour and daring. Although, needless to say, I was never going to go quite Gabi Grecko daring.
So after many cumulative hours spent contemplating and compiling our outfits, Ali and I trotted off to Prahran Railway Station come Melbourne Cup day with delusional visions of ourselves winning Myer’s Fashions on the Field.
VERY important decision #2: Footwear. Louboutins on lawn, WTF?
I strongly believe that spending a day in heels on grass should be filed under insanity, but who was I to defy the well-heeled Flemington tradition?
Instead I listened to the sage advice of many who’d clearly done the barefoot walk of shame and the day before I bought a clutch big enough to conceal the epitome of style, my black Havianas, along with a bulk pack of Party Feet. Both brilliant, brilliant ideas!
After walking to the train station and catching two trains, I was quite smug with myself when I stealthily slipped on my heels and strutted into Flemington, rather than prematurely limping through the gates. And when I saw the hoards of heels being flung off before midday it was confirmed, heels + grass + all-day drinking event = admission to the asylum.
VERY important decision #3: Birdcage? Emirates Marquee? Or general admission?
Along with what to wear, another agonising decision that wasted too much time that could have been spent watching Girls was what tickets to buy.
“Do not go general admission!” I was told. “How bad can it be?” BAD!!
Sadly, the Birdcage was out, given we didn’t have a spare $2k lying around. Leaving only one non-GA option within our budget: The Precinct.
Tickets into the roped off, outdoors, slightly-more-civilised Precinct area were double the price of general admission (we paid $198.80 each). It really only bought easy access to the comfort-creating amenities of bars, food trucks, betting facilities, chairs and umbrellas, with some mildly pleasing add-ons of a DJ, free racebook and sunscreen.
But the fact that we could waltz on up to the bar, buy our bottle of over-priced Yellowglen and didn’t have to spend 30 minutes lining up for a bottle of booze (like the GA plebs) made that extra $100 the best investment of the day – the $20 I put on 13th placed Lucia Valentina certainly wasn’t. There’s no doubt, I will 100% be opting in to The Precinct again this year.
VERY important decision #4: To stay classy or not?
Instead of The Real Housewifes of Melbourne, I’ve decided that there needs to be a Real Racegoers of Melbourne doco because venturing trackside was more Jersey Shore than the Sex and the City I naively believed. The ill-conceived idea of glamour was replaced by messiness, both in terms of dress code and trash. The crisp white shirts were not so crisp, neatly tucked in nor white anymore, and the obvious fashion trend of the season was a barefoot look.
Let’s be honest, watching and analysing the outfits, male and female, as though you’re the official Fashions on the Field judges, is greater entertainment than any horses running around a track. Which was probably fortuitous given that the only downside of The Precinct is that there was no direct view of the track, only super screens. However, for serious punters there was an add-on reserved lawn stand seat upgrade (unnecessary in my view).
Getting swept up in feeling like a Melburnian, snatching my mid-week public holiday with both hands and joining the sea of fascinators bopping about in all shades of pineapple, tangerine and melon that swarmed the state’s train stations was a priceless Victorian experience.
Melbourne Cup | Flemington Racecourse, 448 Epsom Road, Flemington, Victoria