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Two-legged show ponies come out to play

ALL roads led to Flemington yesterday for the start of the annual festival of the fascinator, as the spring racing carnival kicked off with the running of the Derby.

As the crowds surged in, it was the two-legged show ponies dressed in the traditional black and white colour scheme who were attracting all the attention off track.

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Once again it was in the Birdcage enclosure, a mini tent city that has sprung up inside Flemington for the carnival, that a stellar cast of celebrities, sporting identities, politicians and billionaires chose to spend their day. Irish pop star turned Australian reality TV star Ronan Keating admitted he was nursing a sore head, having been up until 5am at Shane Warne's new Club 23 private bar.

His X Factor co-star Mel B was late after her dress ripped when she got into the car. ''I had to go back to the hotel and their seamstress had to sew it up while it was on me,'' she said.

They were stationed in the huge Russian-themed Emirates marquee, decked out to emulate the Catherine Palace, complete with giant Faberge egg, crystal chandeliers, beauty parlour and a Russian-style restaurant.

Simone Callahan, with boyfriend Tony Roberts, luckily didn't have to run into her ex-husband Warne and his fiancee Liz Hurley, with rumours flying that the no-show newly engaged pair couldn't find a marquee to fork out for their appearance fee.

Earning her widely rumoured $50,000 appearance fee was burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese, who graced the Lavazza Coffee marquee with her presence and a lurid red racing suit with matching headpiece.

with Kate Waterhouse