Race a crowd-pleaser
It doesn't exactly have the same level of prestige as its Melbourne counterpart, but two-mile race day at Wingatui is developing into a more than respectable race day in its own right.
"I'm at a meeting in Wellington right now where we are benchmarking all of New Zealand's race days," Otago Racing Club chief executive Andre Klein said. "Melbourne Cup Day at Wingatui sits clearly in the top 10 most-attended race days - I think it's sixth in the country - which is something we are really proud of."
The days of a dour South Island stayer making the Melbourne Cup field are seemingly far behind us, but Wingatui's 3200m race has proven to be a competitive race over the years.
With decent stakes on offer on the supporting card, some of the south's better horses are likely to be tackling Wingatui on the first Tuesday of November.
"It is a feature licence, so the stakes are reasonably good and owners and trainers want to be there and we tend to get reasonable horses," Klein said.
"We do run a novelty two-mile race on the day, which I think is a good race.
"Some people question its value, but I think it adds a lot to the fun and character of the day."
A crowd of about 10,000 is likely to be on course.
In previous years a few have enjoyed the big day a little too much, and Klein said comprehensive plans were in place to try to make Cup Day a trouble-free day.
"We work closely with police and liquor licensing to try and improve the situation each year... one major change this year is that everyone on course will be issued a wristband, and without the wristband they won't be able to buy alcohol.
"I looked at the St John's report for Melbourne Cup day last year and there weren't that many incidents for the size of crowd - but it's the old story, that a very few can ruin it for the vast majority," Klein said.
And the Melbourne Cup? Klein fancies Red Cadeaux, runner-up in the race last year.
- © Fairfax NZ News