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Famous faces flock to the Birdcage

A bit of rain couldn't stop the party in the Birdcage as celebrities ate, drank, schmoozed and even placed some bets.

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Hot on the footsteps of Tony Abbott's turn around Flemington with his weapons of mass distraction - daughters Frances and Bridget - it was backbencher Kevin Rudd who had a prime ministerial-like turn inside the lavish Birdcage Emirates marquee at the Melbourne Cup. Rudd told PS he was "already going to be in Melbourne this morning and while I know nothing about horse racing thought it would be fun to come to Flemington for the Cup. I'll probably bet about $20 but I'm not too confident about how I'll do."

And while Camilla, aka the Duchess of Cornwall, may well become Queen one day, it was royalty of another kind mobbed at Flemington when just before midday music industry legend Ian ''Molly'' Meldrum arrived by golf buggy.

Still recovering from his near fatal fall almost a year ago, Meldrum was the star attraction inside the marquee enclosure as punters raced to pose for pictures. "Mate, it's just great to be here," said Meldrum, wearing a black velvet jacket with a Barack Obama lapel badge.

Mischa Barton in the Emirates marquee. Click for more photos

Melbourne Cup 2012 : Birdcage and Fashion

Mischa Barton in the Emirates marquee. Photo: Angela Wylie

Meldrum led a smorgasbord of famous faces to Flemington this year for the Melbourne Cup, including Maria Venuti, Glenn McGrath and his wife, Sara Leonardi, soccer star Alessandro Del Piero and his wife, Sonia, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Jennifer Hawkins, Shane Warne (minus his fiancee, Elizabeth Hurley), Qantas chief Alan Joyce, Lady Susan Renouf, Wolf of Wall Street author Jordan Belfort, Mischa Barton and Delta Goodrem.

Unionist Paul Howes appeared to be enjoying a day of networking inside the Emirates marquee, just a melon-ball throw from Rudd, though when spotted not with his new girlfriend, Qantas publicist Olivia Wirth.

Prince Charles and Camilla spent most of their time in the Victorian Racing Committee's chairman's suite before the duchess presented this years's winner with the Cup.

She was also introduced to Lady Renouf, unlikely owner of Phar Lap's 1930 Cup - recycled and awarded to her when she and her former husband Robert Sangster won with Beldale Ball in 1980.

Lady Renouf said she had been using the cup as a rose vase but was only too happy to bring it yesterday to show Charles and Camilla.

However, there was some controversy about the royal visit, with the official race broadcaster, Channel Seven, reminding the hordes of rival media organisations at Flemington, complete with video crews, that they were banned from filming the couple.

"Seven is the only network which is able to film the royals from the time they arrive until they leave the racecourse," the media was bluntly told, though perhaps someone should have told Charles and Camilla, who were at the track purely as a public relations exercise as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations.

Interestingly, Seven also had a crew from the new series of My Kitchen Rules shooting in the Emirates marquee, where contestants appeared to be dishing up what looked to be experimental canapes.

With grey skies and morning showers creating steamy conditions, the colourful fashions provided a welcome distraction.

However, racing stalwart Lillian Frank warned young ladies to remain just that: "It is a day at the races. Too much boob, too much leg or just too tight doesn't work. They should always remain ladies, and don't take their shoes off after the races. If they are in pain then they have worn the wrong shoes," Frank said.

Just as Frank finished, Venuti sashayed past, with ample cleavage on display. She appeared to have raided the bird enclosure at Taronga Zoo before coming to Melbourne.

Eschewing Frank's advice, Venuti declared: "I think that's all rubbish … Darrrrling, if you've got it, flaunt it!"

MEANWHILE, IN SYDNEY...

SYDNEY folk didn’t miss out on Melbourne Cup fun. As Shelly Horton discovered, well-heeled eastern suburbs ladies weren’t afraid to frock up at Matt Moran’s Chiswick, even though there wasn’t a horse in sight. Looking dapper was the actor Richard Roxburgh with his wife, Silvia Colloca. Former athlete Jane Flemming was racing to the front of fashion with a gauze top hat,  and Channel Ten’s Magdalena Roze looked smoking hot in red and black. With sweeps, prizes for best-dressed and massive screens to watch the race everyone charged their glasses with enthusiasm.

On the northern beaches, the Cup had a tropical feel at Jonah’s. Guests relaxed and enjoyed a Camilla Franks fashion parade. It was more about fashion than fillies at the Grazia magazine Melbourne Cup luncheon at Hugo’s in Potts Point, says Jo Casamento. Fashionable types and magazine honchos including Robyn Foyster and Amy Molloy, as well as X Factor contestant Bella Hunter and newlywed actress Krew Boylan, enjoyed the low-key atmosphere that went up a notch as the after-party kicked on. ‘‘I was sewing the hat in the car on the way here,’’ said Hunter, who performed three acoustic songs at the lunch created by Dave Evans. ‘‘I stuck the flowers on a kid’s cap!’’ Hunter’s date was her mum, Wendy, the wife of the late Dragon singer Marc Hunter. ‘‘I’m very proud of her, and I know Marc would be too.’’ Wearing a leather jumpsuit, Boylan was basking in the aftermath of her wedding. ‘‘It was such a beautiful day,’’ she said. ‘‘Gathering all my family and friends together was just so lovely.’’

At the Ivy’s ballroom, Sarah Whyte discovered money was being thrown not only at the horses, but to the charity Cure Our Kids. With tickets going for $200 each for a sophisticated sit-down lunch, these punters were keen to support a cause glamorously. The chief executive Carolyn Dodds said they were hoping to raised more than $30,000 for the event in its second year. One of the few celebrities at the event, ABC children’s presenter Jimmy Rees, aka Jimmy Giggle, said he had come to ‘‘do it for the kids’’.

Up at Ivy’s pool bar, things were getting steamy. Literally. Many of Sydney’s glamorous were so hot they resorted to standing in the pool with shoes cast to the side. A  suave Justin Hemmes, dressed in an equally suave suit, said Melbourne Cup was the biggest day on the Merivale calendar, with 45 events happening across its Sydney venues.

Finally, for Sydney-siders who couldn’t get down to the state that stops the nation, Randwick was the perfect place to get close to some trackside action. As Faith Aird discovered, the Chandon Oaks Lawn Marquee was bursting with celebs and bubbly – literally from a two-metre-tall fountain of gold. Stars included The X Factor’s Ronan Keating and new girlfriend Storm Uechtritz, actress Kate Ritchie and TV personality Tom Williams. For this picnic race day, the outdoors were brought inside, with turf-covered flooring and greenery hanging from every corner.

with Scott Ellis and Damien Murphy