CROWN Casino's marquee at the Melbourne Cup was just like chairman James Packer - small but perfectly formed.
The trim billionaire spent much of the afternoon deep in conversation with equally lithe bowler of maiden overs Shane Warne, who lends his name to a bar at Packer's Southbank sin pit.
While Packer's wife Erica was by the billionaire's side, there was no sign of Warne's fiancee, actress Liz Hurley.
Others in Crown's tent included ALP hardman turned Crown lobbyist Mark Arbib, and AFL boss Andrew Demetriou, with wife Symone.
While lacking in largeness, Crown's teepee was immaculately carpeted and featured plenty of deep-cushioned furniture, possibly to make sure there wasn't an Echo in the room.
Casino boss Rowen Craigie was keen to get to the mounting yard to check out his horse Sanagas, but he remained downbeat about the nag's chances.
''If it can run in the first six I will be delighted, realistically top 10.''
Sanagas came in 18th.
Myer goes budget
MYER's Bernie Brookes didn't get his Cup day wish for an interest rate cut and the racing-loving chief executive had nothing running on the day, either.
''I haven't got a bonus for a few years - I can't afford to buy horses,'' he told CBD.
He pooh-poohed talk corporate spending was back in fashion on Millionaire's Row this year, saying Myer had slashed its spending on its marquee.
''We downsized in both the number of people we have come into the marquee and the amount of money we spend on the whole carnival,'' he told CBD.
''So ours is about getting value - for example, this marquee cost us significantly less than last year, but hopefully nobody will notice.''
Pacific Brands boss John Pollaers failed to pick the daily double, plumping for Dunaden and a rate cut.
''I'm hoping some common sense prevails,'' he told CBD.
''It's time that we recognise that most of Australia is still doing it tough,'' he said as waiters poured Mumm champagne.
Earlier, Brookes chatted with Australia's highest-paid public servant, Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour, whose parcel service has been cutting traditional retail's lunch by delivering all those cheap internet deals to miserly shoppers.
REPRISING their Derby Day debut as close friends were Australian Workers Union People's Democratic Secretary Paul Howes and Qantas spin doctor Olivia Wirth.
Howes, the tireless (if sometimes tiresome) campaigner for the working people, and Wirth, who last year was the public face of the Flying Kangaroo's anti-union campaign, seem to have once and for all bridged the divide between labour and capital.
The unlikely pair spent the afternoon swanning around the Birdcage, starting out at the Emirates marquee and ending up at Crown's casbah.
Luck of the Irish
QANTAS boss Alan Joyce looked very much at home with his new partners, Emirates, enjoying the luxury of one of the sumptuous marquees that made the Qantas Club lounge look like a backyard shed.
Joyce, who was proud to say he would be backing the Irish horses including Galileo's Choice, didn't have much luck at the Caulfield Cup and failed to back a winner.
It was the first time Joyce had made an appearance at the Melbourne Cup in nearly ten years as previously Emirates and Qantas were arch rivals. ''We used ambush marketing back then, I think flying Qantas planes over the racetrack but we don't have to do that any longer.''
He especially liked the Irish theme Emirates had used for its marquee, but CBD is unsure what the Qantas boss thought of the ''Riverdance'' dancers dancing to Gangnam Style.
Also in the Emirates tent was former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who was locked in conversation with Joyce, as well Howes and fellow voice of the proletariat, cabinet minister Anthony Albanese.
TREASURY Wine Estates CEO David Dearie was probably one of the luckiest executives on the track and in a small group of punters who backed Cup winner Green Moon.
Tabcorp general manager Kerry Willcock said before the Cup it was hard to go past Dunaden: ''He loves to chase the horses down so I think he will be hard to beat.'' She didn't pick the winner then, but would be very happy that a rank outside came in first, with Tabcorp and the bookies cleaning up.
Tabcorp boss David Attenborough backed a winner in the third, but his picks for the big race - Dunaden and Americain, failed to show.
Also among the throng was Elmer Funke Kupper, the man who formerly sat in Attenborough's seat before moving to take over that other gambling house, the ASX.
Funke Kupper is rejoining Tabcorp's board, but told CBD he would not be one of those former CEOs who comes back to haunt the new management. ''That's why I look so relaxed,'' he said. ''I don't have to worry about the systems.''
IN the two-storey James Boag's marquee investment banker Ron Malek of Greenhill was studying the form guide and was keen on Red Cadeaux. ''I just think it got pretty close last time around and sometimes you have to lose one to win one.''
Also in the James Boag's tent (owned by brewer Lion) was Metcash boss Andrew Reitzer, Investors Mutual fund manager Anton Tagliaferro and Flight Centre boss Graham Turner.
Outgoing Lion boss Rob Murray had a win earlier in the day, and was backing in the Cup Americain as well as Mourayan, '' on the basis that it almost sounds like my surname and it has all the letters of my surname bar one, and that's only credentials I can give and I hope it wins because I will be rich for ever.''
Like a sunrise
OVER at the AAMI tent, Suncorp chief executive Patrick Snowball was deep in conversation with Swiss Re Australian boss Mark Senkevics. Hurricane Sandy was no doubt top of the agenda.
Suncorp general insurance boss Mark Milner tore himself away from race six to have his photo taken with the star of AAMI's advertising campaign Ketut. However Ketut's flame Rhonda must have been left behind in general admission.
PROVING economists are useless tipsters, just seven of the 27 dismal scientists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted Glenn Stevens and his merry men at the RBA wouldn't move official interest rates.
Among those getting it wrong were 12-year RBA veteran Paul Bloxham, who now reads the entrails for HSBC and has called it wrong for two months running, and the normally uber-reliable Bill Evans of Westpac.
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