Derby Day Debut

If you were at the Melbourne Racing Carnival’s Derby Day, you would have seen me in a funny hat, shouting at a horse with a funny name and spending funny money. By that, I mean spare change. Aware of the importance of the races to Australian culture, when friends suggested it, I jumped at the chance to suit up and experience the Melbourne racing carnival firsthand.

Back in my motherland, New Zealand, we would do a $2 sweep-stake at work then turn the television on in the boardroom to watch the Melbourne Cup at the end of the day. Race days are a little more serious here. It’s a build up of weeks of race carnivals and not only is it on the calendar but the city stops everything, declaring a public holiday for the main event; the Melbourne Cup.

Derby Day Melbourne, Australia 5/11/13

Bright neon lights glare at me as I stand awkwardly in a sea of headpieces with a bewildered look on my face. A woman approaches me with an air of confidence. She looks like she’s been to her share of cup days over the years. 

“Can I help you?” she asks.

I quickly accept her help finding a fascinator for my Derby Day debut. Strange shaped headpieces are plopped on my head and I am transformed into an architectural structure.

“It’s too big” I worry.

“Not at all, and it will work perfectly with your dress”

“I’ll take it” I decide on a whim, also keen to escape.

I squeezed on my cocktail dress and blown out the closet dust. I replaced my first fascinator as it really was too big. A week before, the weather forecast was cloud and rain. I checked the tickets and found that we will be out in the open rain or shine and my enthusiasm suitably dampened. Luckily I double checked the forecast the day before the race. We were in for a day of sunshine after all. If there’s one thing you can rely on, its Melbourne’s changing weather.  That has turned out to be the biggest gamble.

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