In the end it was a photo finish between a clothes horse and a colt.
British supermodel Naomi Campbell was the most eagerly anticipated arrival in the Birdcage on Saturday, but kept media sweltering in the sun for 90 minutes before she finally appeared as Polanski was sweeping past the post to win the Victoria Derby.
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Celebrities flock to the Birdcage
Naomi Campbell and Tyson Beckford flock to the famous Birdcage on Derby Day.
"So we're going to move after to see the race, or can we see it here?" said a blissfully ignorant Campbell upon her arrival in the Lexus marquee.
But organisers appeared thrilled to have the notoriously fickle and fiery Campbell turn up at all, and once ensconced in her pampered confines, she provided excellent fashion fodder.
Campbell, who had arrived in Melbourne just hours earlier, was serene and stylish in a Christian Dior strapless black and white houndstooth sheath, a Philip Treacy headpiece and Azzedine Alaia shoes.
"When I dress to go out, no matter where it is in the world, I'm aware I'm going to go out and be photographed and I don't want to disappoint, [so] I try to do my best," Campbell said.
"What I love about this is you are specifically told a colour code. I think it's great to have themes and I like that people are more specific with what they want.''
Others also responded to the racing rules. It was black, white and definitely all right as Derby Day's monochrome dress code delivered a miraculously elegant crowd.
Demure hemlines, 1950s-style silhouettes and sleek sheaths dominated the Birdcage in a welcome return to ladylike dressing at the track.
British model and socialite Poppy Delevingne was pretty as a picture in a tiered white lace dress by Melbourne label J'Aton, sending the snappers into overdrive from her pampered perch in the Lavazza marquee.
"I wouldn't have come all the way to Australia and not supported an Australian designer," Delevingne said. "I'm such a huge fan of Australian designers; I remember buying my first piece of Sass & Bide."
Unlike some racegoers who didn't receive the memo about the Derby's traditional refinement, Delevingne, an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, actually had her dress altered to make it longer.
"Originally it was this [thigh high] length but because I knew Derby Day was very elegant, I said it needs to be longer because I don't want to be flashing my pants," she laughed. "So J'Aton really sweetly added the layers to it to give it a little more length. I kind of look like a wedding cake."
Teamed with sparkly Givenchy shoes and a jewel-encrusted gold Dolce & Gabbana crown, her outfit, Delevingne admitted, was nonetheless more casual than the racewear to which the Royal Ascot regular is accustomed. "Ascot is all about the Queen and sipping tea, and what I gather from here is, this is all about people just having a marvellous time''
In the Mumm marquee, television presenter and former Miss Universe Australia Rachael Finch wore a beaded headpiece made by the Channel Seven wardrobe department, which she teamed with a form-fitting black Yeojin Bae sheath.
Pia Miller opted for a Dolce & Gabbana long-sleeve lace dress and a wide-brimmed hat of flying-saucer proportions, which was also by the Italian design duo. Five months pregnant Rebecca Judd opted for a lace and leather dress "with a peplum to cover my baby bump", and Dancing with the Stars judge Kym Johnson won admiring glances for her highly architectural Scanlan & Theodore dress.
Jennifer Hawkins took a more daring approach in a provocative bondage-style leather harness dress by Toni Maticevski. "Its very risque," she said. ''A modern take on Derby Day is about bringing your personality forward and putting it into your outfit. Then it makes the day fun, because people want to let loose."
Smaller-style, structured headpieces and jewelled headbands were most popular, as part of a new trend Myer milliner Ann Shoebridge said was about "less brim, more height".
Many men put as much effort into their outfits as the ladies in Fashions on the Field.
Palmer Mutandwa walked away with a 12-month loan of a Lexus after winning the menswear national final in a Ralph Lauren suit, Karl Lagerfeld shirt, Tom Ford tie and hat from Borsalino. The women's winner, Ashleigh Albanese, made her own outfit.