From diehard punters to fashionistas, meet the Melbourne Cup tribes

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When racehorses thunder down the straight at Flemington in this year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival, there will be 250,000 people packed in at the track over four days to watch the spectacle.

For every diehard punter with their race book carefully marked and their eyes trained on the finishing post, there will also be a fashionista dressed to the nines with no intention of setting eyes on a horse.

Drawn to each other like feathers and fascinators, they tend to flock to particular areas of the track.

Forget the form guide, here’s our guide to the social tribes of horse racing.

Old-school members are always impeccably dressed. Credit: Matt Davidson

The old-school members

With a Victoria Racing Club membership card proudly hooked onto their belt loop or handbag, they flock to the members grandstand or can be found hosting a picnic out of the Range Rover boot in the Nursery car park.

Impeccably attired with tailored suiting and custom-made millinery, an old-school member knows where to get the best chicken sandwiches at the track and has strong opinions on the changes made to enable non-member civilians into the exclusive Rails carpark.

Top priority for the old-school members is to score an invitation to the VRC’s committee room, but securing a bar stool at the members’ bar with a view of the straight comes a close second.

Potential topics of conversation include comparing Flemington and Royal Ascot racecourses, and how the renewal fee payments for memberships to the Melbourne Cricket Club, Royal South Yarra Tennis Club and Victoria Racing Club should not all occur in the same month.

The fashionistas can be found parading around the Birdcage and the Park precinct where the Fashions on the Field competition is held.Credit: Matt Davidson

The fashionistas

What racehorses? The fashionistas at Flemington are unlikely to encounter an equine athlete during their day at the track.

The racing is just an excuse for getting frocked or suited up and posing for photographs in front of Flemington’s famous roses.

You’ll find the fashionistas promenading around the Birdcage enclosure and in the Park area where the Fashions on the Field competition is held with a glass of bubbly in hand.

Alongside shrieks of “you look ah-mazing” they’ve got plenty to say about the VRC’s changes to its dress-code regulations, which allow shorts and cut-outs for the first time.

The true fashionista test is whether they are still wearing their heels at the end of the day or carrying them.

The diehard punters have their form guides marked up and their binoculars in hand. Credit: Matt Davidson

The diehard punters

A heavily underlined form guide in one hand and binoculars in the other, diehard punters gather around the bookies at the betting ring or can be found inspecting the horses at the mounting yard.

They are constantly on their phone checking the odds on the four different betting apps they have signed up to, as they hunt for the best bonus bets.

Diehard punters will talk to you if you have insider tips or are willing to listen to their yarn of how they missed out on the quaddie earlier in the day by a flared nostril.

They are likely to linger after the last race for the get-out-of-jail stakes from Ascot in Perth.

The blokes

Travelling in a pack, the blokes on a bucks day or boys trip are easily identifiable by their matching outfits – whether Hawaiian shirts or novelty hats.

They are likely to be in the general admission area right in front of the winning post for easy access to the bar and a good view of the track, or on the Furphy terrace.

At Flemington for both a good time and a long time, their only complaint is the price of drinks and queues at the bar.

The A Listers like to see and be seen in the Birdcage and VRC Committee room. Credit: Matt Davidson

The A-listers

While Flemington may no longer attract the international superstars like Nicole Kidman, Sarah Jessica Parker and Usain Bolt, there is still likely to be a strong showing of A-listers trackside.

Television stars, top athletes, leading business figures and politicians all flock to the Melbourne Cup Carnival whether through contractual obligations or a love of racing.

This year’s line-up includes Brazilian supermodel Alessandra Ambrosio, Princess Diana’s nieces Lady Eliza Spencer and Lady Amelia Spencer, a flock of Collingwood Magpies and a handful of Matildas.

Entertainment and sporting A-listers are most likely to be spotted in the Birdcage’s marquees such as Lexus, Mumm, Crown or Penfolds sipping champagne and eating freshly prepared sushi.

Chief executives and politicians are more likely to seek a slightly lower profile in the wood-panelled privacy of the VRC’s committee room.

Face painting and mini golf are on offer for kids. Credit: Matt Davidson

The families

Champions Day (formerly known as Stakes Day) on the last day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival is traditionally the day for families, with the crowds less hectic and lots of kids activities like face painting and mini golf on offer.

Kids fashions-on-the-field for mini-me fashion moments and plenty of soft drinks and lollies are on offer for the little ones.

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