Punters in finery hit the racetrack
Thousands of race-goers and fashionistas are expected to descend on the Ascot Park Racecourse today for Invercargill's annual Christmas races
The corporate Christmas party marquees are lined up along the track, the elegant frocks have been bought and the booze has been ordered, for what organisers hope will be a superb day of racing and fun.
Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew said about 3500 tickets had been pre-sold and the club estimated about 7000 people would attend the races.
Hospitality expenditure had spilled into the six figures, but the club urged patrons to drink responsibly, he said. Meetings with police had also taken place to ensure Southland's biggest social event went smoothly, he said.
During the past few years, fashion in the field organisers had raised the fashion stakes and hoped punters would once again put on their glad rags for the competition.
Ladies are urged to wear full race attire: hat or fascinator, matching shoes and bag, and a pretty dress. Men are expected to make an effort to look smart, in suits and hats.
Mr Bellew said the club had carried out a survey of fashion stores in the city this week.
"Sales had more than doubled, so fashion in the field could be competitive this year," he said.
Judges would be scouting the crowd for the best-dressed male and female outfits.
Those who were tapped on the shoulder would be entered into heats, with the final held in the bird cage for the top 10 best dressed.
The best-dressed woman would be serenaded by New Zealand's Got Talent contestant Jack Fraser.
Mr Bellew assured the more serious race-minded individuals they would also have a memorable event.
This year there would be a higher quality of race horses because the stakes had been increased by another $48,000.
"This basically means there will be better-class horses, in very competitive races," Mr Bellew said.
He had some betting advice for novice punters: "Box up the favourites in each race and there will be no surprises - it's a safe bet in most of the races".
Keep up to date with all the race shenanigans and race winners on Twitter: #xmasraces @devlincolle @SearleJamie @SouthlandTimes, and check out The Southland Times on Monday for more coverage and photos from the event.
The Southland Times