ACT News

Thousands flock to Thoroughbred Park for raceday fun in the sun

More than 5000 Canberrans flocked to Thoroughbred Park on Tuesday for Melbourne Cup festivities and to bask in the sun with drinks, family and friends. 

A Canberra Racing Club spokeswoman said the attendance of 5,500 people was "slightly down" from the more than 6000 reported last year although "everyone was really well behaved and the fashion in display was exceptional".

An overcast morning had many concerned but the sun eventually broke through the clouds as tanned punters gathered by the track to scrutinise form guides, reapply sunscreen, and bask in 26 degree conditions.

Regular attendee Rohan Mutandadzi from Nicholls arrived at the races early in the day with a group of accountant friends and was rather clinical about his approach to betting.

"Being accountants we tend to crunch the numbers on the betting slip pretty carefully," he said.

"The atmosphere, the people, it's all great here."

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But bookmaker Roger Norton said takings were "down a bit" this year despite thousands of people enjoying themselves in their raceday finest around him.

"There's a lot of people enjoying themselves, but it's pretty quiet," he said. "It could be because of the tough times."

An ACTTAB spokesman said punters in Canberra spent nearly $1.9 million on the Melbourne Cup race. 

As the afternoon inched towards 3pm and the line to the bar and bathrooms increased in size, the Lyneham crowd gathered by the main screen to nervously watch the race that stops a nation. 

In all the excitement Louis Subtle from Braddon lost his beer – which went over a female companion - but won the race on a "lucky guess" when he punted on the German-trained Protectionist.

But Mr Subtle was in no mood to cash his winnings in the bank and head home. 

"The day is only going up from here," he said.

Tianha Junakovic from Casey experienced brief euphoria when she thought her trifecta bet had paid dividends after favouring her lucky numbers, but was let down when she realised her confusion.

But it wasn't all gambling and drinking with races briefly paused for the Fashion on the Field competition, which was taken out by a mother and daughter duo who "nailed it" with their bold colours and winning smiles. 

The absence of a public holiday made no difference to a few cheeky Canberrans who admitted to "pulling a sickie" but refused to get in front of a camera for fear of their employers catching them out. 

Ambulance officers on stand-by retreated to the shade in the afternoon and said most of their work involved handing band-aids to those who sustained blisters from high-heel shoes.

Several police officers at the track said the crowd was well behaved with no major incidents to report but would keep a close eye on those who had too much to drink in the sun. 

Acting Superintendent Adrian Craft had urged racegoers to consider their alcohol consumption and transport plans before enjoying Melbourne Cup day festivities. 

"In the past we've been very happy with the way Canberrans have behaved in and around the race course during the event," he said.

Police also kept a close eye on local entertainment precincts in Dickson and Civic to ensure those engaging in anti-social behaviour were controlled and monitored. 

Many punters who enjoyed a few drinks in the sun, some bearing high-heels in hand, made use of free ACTION buses between Thoroughbred Park and City Bus Station.