Capacity crowd transforms racecourse
Racegoers dressed to the ninesCOLLETTE DEVLIN
A sunny Southland day attracted a record crowd of more than 7000 people, many dressed to the nines, to Ascot Park's annual Christmas at the Races on Saturday.
The smell of barbecued food wafted through the air and green lawns were transformed into squares of colour as racegoers sprawled out, quenched their thirst and applied sunscreen in the scorching sun.
A mixed crowd of business Christmas parties, hen parties, school-leavers and friends on social outings enjoyed the day.
New Zealand Racing Board member Tony Russell travelled from Christchurch for the day.
It was the biggest turnout that he could remember and there was no more space to put any more people, he said.
"What's great about these races is that 30 per cent of the people had never been to the races and they had a great time."
Malcolm Little, from Gallop South, said the day had a great atmosphere, with the sun shining and racegoers having a good time.
Almost everyone dressed to impress which made Fashion in the Field a hard decision for the judges this year.
Hundreds of people watched the fashion heats and cheered for their favourites. Southland Racing Club Ascot women's judge Anne McFarlane said the standard of entries was high and it was good to see women of all ages taking part.
Pale pinks, florals and bright-coloured dresses teamed with matching fascinators, bags and shoes were favoured by the women, with the trend for men being black and white suits and ties, with statement shoes.
New Zealand's Got Talent crooner Jack Fraser belted out a few songs during the competition as sun-kissed spectators danced on the lawns.
Trudie Clay and Andrea Thomas enjoyed the competition. "It's good to see Invercargill glammed up and the sun has made it an enjoyable day," Ms Thomas said.
Best-dressed woman was awarded to Maria Wright, of Christchurch, whose mother had made her dusky pink dress and jacket.Samantha Lindley, of Winton, who wore a burnt red, floral dress, came second.
Best-dressed man, Brian Scully, said he did not normally attend the races but had enjoyed himself and had not expected to win.
- The Southland Times