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A Bluffer’s Guide to the Melbourne Cup in Auckland

Exceptional sportspeople, million-dollar horses, high fashion, chilled champagne, a lucky bet here and there - there really is something for everyone when it comes to the races.

By Genevieve Hole
October 31, 2013
By Genevieve Hole
October 31, 2013

Exceptional sportspeople, million-dollar horses, high fashion, chilled champagne, a lucky bet here and there - there really is something for everyone when it comes to the races. So it's just our luck that one of the world's most prestigious races - the Melbourne Cup - is right around the corner.

The Cup, which has been held on the first Tuesday in November since the late 1800s, was first run way back in 1861 in front of an estimated crowd of 4000 people but it quickly became popular as punters enjoyed picnic parties, sideshows and general race day shenanigans. Along with the golddiggers, socialites, politicians and the rich and famous, they all attended the Cup right from its earliest days and continue to do so today.

From the humble 'office sweepstakes' to a bubbles trackside at Ellerslie, there are plenty of ways to embrace the race in our fine city. So if you need a hand in bluffing your way into conversation around the race that stops a nation, have a read below and make a most of the biggest Tuesday on the racing calendar.

Where to Watch

Ellerslie Race Course

With live racing (and betting) all day and a range of ticket options from General Admission ($5 - bring a picnic and enjoy the racing from the lawn), to the Cuvee Ground Floor ticket ($250 for drinks, a buffet lunch, the best seats in the house), there is no better place to get amongst the spring races, and watch the Melbourne Cup. There will be plenty happening at Ellerslie on the 5th from a Fashion in the Field event to the after party in the Birdcage Bash in Cuvée. Ellerslie Racecourse will be positively pumping on November 5th and is your best bet for an authentic Cup day experience. We've even got a a double pass to the Lindauer Garden Party to give away to one lucky reader. Click here to enter.

Citizen Park

Kingsland's trendy garden bar Citizen Park is most definitely celebrating the Melbourne Cup. Throw on your glad rags and head here for $10 bubbles and even a special prize of a Magnum of Allan Scott Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionnelle NV for the best dressed. That's definitely worth putting a head piece on for.

Britomart Country Club

Watching the Melbourne Cup at our very own inner city country cup just feels right. Get you in the mood with a bottle of champagne down at the BCC. If you needed an excuse to nip out of work a little early (and an easily accessible CBD venue to watch the big race) you've got it with the Britomart Country Club.

The Cavalier Tavern

The Cavalier has been an Auckland institution for over 130 and really does embrace all live sports drawing a great crowd for most major sporting events - the Melbourne Cup included. With big screens, cold beer, friendly service and a jovial brotherly atmosphere this is a fun place to get wrapped up in the Cup excitement.

How to Bet

We're all guilty of a good old-fashioned un-educated bet. Picking horses because they have cool names or because their jockey is wearing a jersey that features your favourite colours is an easy, light-hearted method of betting for sure. While there is an element of luck to betting, this method is definitely one of the less robust options. It is definitely worth having a little more of an understanding about how the whole shabangle works so you can justify your gut instincts.

Odds, Form and Track

Before you start shelling out your hard-earned cash, do yourself a favour and either get your hands on a race book (for free if you're at Ellerslie) or jump online and check out the TAB. Keep three things in mind when you are checking out the horses; odds, form and track. Your odds, like with any other type of betting, what chance your horse has of coming in first. The lower the odds the better the chance - simple as that. Odds are fluctuating all the time though, and if a whole lot of people decide drop cash on one horse its odds will naturally drop and you might find you've made a tiny return on your bet if the horse delivers. Form can relate to both the horse and the jockey and takes into consideration previous performances. Finally track refers to the differences between race courses and the varying performances of horses upon them. Some horses are suited to certain type of tracks and certain weather conditions. Once you've taken this triad of factors into consideration then it's time to choose your bet.

Different Types of Bets

Horse betting can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Starting at the easy end you've got the classic 'Win Bet' - pick a horse and bet on it to win. A great option if you've enjoyed a few jugs of Pimms and anything more technical just isn't what you've after. A 'Place Bet' is a bet on a horse to finish up in the top three. 'Each Way' allows you to collect dividends on both a Win Bet and a Place Bet if your horse wins. 'Head to Head' let's you pick two horses and place a bet on which of the two of them will finish ahead of the other.  And then you've got the Exotics: 'Quinella' (selecting the top two horses), 'Exacta' (selecting the first place and second place horse in that order and 'Trifecta' (when you tip the first three placegetters across the finish line in the correct order). Or you can 'Box' it which means your selected horses can finish in any order as long they run in the top three.

What to Wear

While Aucklanders are pretty good at looking slick for most events it is important to acknowledge and respect the race wear etiquette. If you are heading to the Ellerslie Race Course, don't just throw something together on the morning. Regardless of whether you are a girl or a guy, right now is the time to plan your outfit. And if you aren't heading to the races why not embrace them anyway by rocking a fancy outfit for the day. Who knows... with your extra suave get-up you might just get yourself that bank loan/pay-rise/date with the cute girl from the coffee shop/free sandwich. Here is our check-list for race day style and panache.


Wear a head piece - Unless you're a royal this is the only time it is legit to wear a fascinator - but it's more than legit - it's necessary. Trust us ladies you'll feel nude without one if you are trackside for the day. If you are dressing to impress we suggest you get to know Parnell based milliner Natalie Chang who makes to order as well as selling her designs online. For something a little more alternative try local independent Courage After Dusk's 'Rosemary Hoyt' headpiece. The general rule of wearing a headpiece is to try to match the colour of your head piece with your bag and shoes.

Lads - your accessories count too so don those stylish shades and a classic straw boater hat.

Karen Walker's New Rose Collection.


First of all, check the weather - while it seems like Cup day is always a stunner both in Melbourne and Auckland there is always a chance of wind and rain. Check the forecast on the morning of, and if the weather looks sketchy bring a jacket and an umbrella. Leave that plastic poncho for NYE.

The key to dressing for the races is to be on trend without being "trendy". The perfect race day outfit pulls influences from current fashion trends (monochrome, florals, ruffles) while still keeping things classic and stylish. Think elegant, sophisticated and put together. Check out options like Miss Selfridge's 'Bow Back Dress' (available from Smith & Caughey's), Karen Walker's 'Draw-In Dress' and Ruby's Jazz Night Dress. Keep things neat and lady-like with matching shoes, bag and headpiece. If you are heading for a member's lounge stay away from strapless dresses and think 'demure.'

Barkers' Light Grey Texture Suit.


Guys, should suit up, preferably not in black. A nice grey, blue or earthy toned suit with a starched shirt (no tie) is a timeless look. Barkers has some nice options like their 'Light Grey Texture Suit' and 'Barker Blue Suit', and The Department Store will also see you right with Top Man and I Love Ugly suits on offer.

Kathryn Wilson's new range.


Put your best foot forward - ladies wear heels that you know you'll be comfortable in. Carrying your shoes and rolling barefoot is a big no-no at the races so make sure you've selected shoes you'll be comfortable in. Take a leaf out of Beyonce's book and head down to Kathryn Wilson. A pair of wedges, or chunky heels are a great option if you're on a lawn for the day. For those determined to wear  stilettos, try the Overland heel stoppers, designed to prevent your heel from sinking into the grass.

Boys, a nice pair of brogues or loafers from Overland are a good match with your suit. A bit of polish would also be welcomed.

Published on October 31, 2013 by Genevieve Hole
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