Frocks, fillies and a fleeting visit
Nicole Kidman was the queen of Flemington on Saturday for her blink-and-you'd-miss-her trip to Derby Day, but once again the Melbourne Cup carnival drew a broad section of Australia's famous faces.
Just weeks after it emerged her nine-year marriage to Russell Crowe had collapsed, Danielle Spencer braved the public spotlight to enjoy a day at the races.
''I'm just here to have some fun with friends,'' Spencer said in the Myer marquee, wearing traditional monochromatic Derby Day attire. ''I'm doing OK, it's been a pretty hard time but you know, you just get on with it and that's been our attitude.''
Derby Day Celebrities from the Birdcage
Nicole Kidman in the Birdcage at Derby Day, Flemington. Photo: Shaney Balcombe
A radiant Kidman was the standout star attraction at Flemington, mobbed by photographers and ogled by crowds. The 45-year-old Oscar-winning actor channelled a combination of My Fair Lady's Eliza Doolittle and her latest role as Princess Grace of Monaco, in a figure-hugging white lace knee-length dress by the designer L'Wren Scott, who is married to Mick Jagger. She topped off the outfit with a huge, wide-brimmed hat made from recycled plastic bottles by the British milliner Stephen Jones.
''I'm really happy to be here,'' she said. ''I do quite like the races and in previous years I have been to Randwick but never to Melbourne. So it was well worth the effort because it is a first for me.''
She said she was managing her jet lag. But she didn't stay long: she was due to return to France - where she has been shooting Grace of Monaco - on Saturday afternoon.
''I'm really trying to focus on being in the character, and trying to do justice to portraying such a fine lady,'' Kidman said. ''She really did epitomise her name.''
She jetted into Australia on Thursday morning, spending several hours in her home town of Sydney before taking a private jet to Melbourne on Thursday night. She was at Flemington with her parents, Antony and Janelle, while her husband Keith Urban and daughters Sunday Rose and Faith stayed behind so Urban could perform at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville on Thursday night.
Not all the attention went her way on the day. The model Jennifer Hawkins managed to provide a welcome and well-timed distraction for the huge media pack which had assembled for Kidman. Minutes before the actor arrived, Hawkins sashayed past the pack, guaranteeing a storm of flashes.
Dannii Minogue's former partner Kris Smith, a former British rugby star, has become a fixture of the races in his former girlfriend's home town.
''Despite what has happened over the past couple for years, they keep inviting me back,'' he said. ''It's a great day and I do enjoy the races.''
Parliamentarian Julie Bishop eschewed the traditional black and white dress code to wear a confection of soft pastels, admitting she wasn't much of a punter but ''I do relish in the social side of races''.
James Packer showed off his svelte new figure in the Crown marquee, the casino mogul clearly putting on a public relations offensive as he pursues his dream of building a casino in Sydney. Packer and his wife, Erica, held court in the marquee, one of two at the track, with the billionaire ducking out for the occasional cigarette between races.