They're off and racing

On course betting up this year

COLLETTE DEVLIN AND JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 13:25 14/12/2013
2013 Christmas Races
COLLETTE DEVLIN/Fairfax NZ Zoom
Stacey O'Neill and Laura Erskine.

2013 Christmas Races

Southland Times photo
COLLETTE DEVLIN/Fairfax NZ
Stacey O'Neill and Laura Erskine at the Christmas Races in Invercargill.

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@devlincolle @searlejamie An increase in betting turnovers and 7000 people on course made today's Christmas races at Ascot Park a success, Southland Racing Club president Sean Bellew said tonight.

Punters on course wagered $221,380 (nine races), compared with $213,636 (10 races) last year.

Off course betting totalled $685,716, which was up on last year's $634,715.

Rain mid-afternoon forced outside racegoers to seek shelter, some ending up in the south bar.

The bar quickly became crowded and as people squeezed in, tensions rose slightly among some patrons.

The bar was closed after race six.

''Too much alcohol and testosterone can be a lethal mix,'' Mr Bellew said.

During the day two people were arrested, he added.

''I'm very happy with the day. I think the systems we have in place are great . . . . it's been a success.''

Six of the nine winners are trained at Ascot Park, while Our Bee Jay, part-owned by former Stags rugby coach Simon Culhane, won the feature race, the Coupland's Bakeries Crystal.

Ascot Park trainer Sally McKay produced three winners - Gallivant, Arn't I Choice and Billy Bingo.

Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp owns Gallivant and Billy Bingo.

Christmas racegoers didn't let the prediction of afternoon rain put them off, as they arrived to Ascot Park in their droves.

Organisers believe 8000 people will turn up now the sun is shining.

Stacey O'Neill was enjoying the sunshine in her new peach dress and had hoped the rain would stay for as long as possible.

Jess Thurlow, who attended the Christmas races every year, said: ''I just love the races. It's so much fun getting dressed up and having a good day out with the girls.''

Lee Elder said the races were a fantastic day out for all of Invercargill.

The heat earlier in the day may have inspired some of the shorter dresses on display, which left a few ladies red faced when the wind picked up - playing havoc with floaty dresses and hairdos.

Fashion in the field organisers were impressed by the calibre of entries and the huge crowd that gathered to watch and cheer on the competitors.

Southland Racing Club Ascot Ladies organiser Anne McFarlane said the judges had a hard task because of the wonderful array of outfits.

''Last year was wonderful but this year everyone has surpassed it. I am pleased to see so many people made such an effort, it's credit to Southland,'' she said.

This year, the ladies wore a mixture of designer and high street dresses, in shades of red, pink and orange, teamed with matching fascinators, bags and shoes. Floral was once gaining a popular option for many.

Sharon Hamilton was named best dressed lady.

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She wore an orange and black frock from H&J Smith, with matching shoes and two fascinators.

She shortened the original long dress and used the extra material to make her shoes because she could not find orange shoes to match.

Ms Hamilton was hosting an function at the races. Her guests included runner up for best dressed lady Sheryl Millar and her partner Brian Scully, who was named best dressed male.

Mr Scully wore shiny purple shoes he had bought in a shoe shop in Dee St that morning, with a matching purple tie and a white hat.

- The Southland Times

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