The celebration that stops the nation

2 Nov

We are surrounded by a sea of fancy hats, fascinators and smart dresses. The wine, beers and (in some cases) champagne is flowing and people are cheering loudly, calling out the names of horses, waving betting slips in the air.

But this is not race side at Ascot – this is a high street Sydney pub.

The Melbourne Cup is not so much a horse race as a national institution, when over 70% of the Australian population place a bet or take part in a work-place sweepstake. By lunch time, people have left the office, are in the local bar and are getting the drinks in ready for this three-minute event.

It is quite literally the celebration that stops the nation.

Having only the Grand National to compare it to – this is on a whole new level. We may not have been in Melbourne, nor even at one of the races taking place in the Sydney area but even so, the streets were full of women teetering on 6 inch heels, wearing their hats and finery, heading to the local boozer.

With James away, I did a quick ring round to see who might be free and met up with Naomi to make a dash to The Golden Sheaf in time for 3pm to watch the race.

In a token gesture, I wore a dress and stuck a fascinator in my hair – but I was relatively underdressed!

Neither of us had placed bets so we had less invested interest in the outcome but it was enough to see the reactions and be part of the whole experience. Added to that, the race was almost declared a dead heat – the first in its history – with literally just the flare of a nostril marking the winner – Dunaden.

Perhaps next year, James and I will both be cheering on and hopefully celebrating with some winnings!

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