Cup and Show Week: Party time for Christchurch
Fun, fashion, gambling and racing. It's Cup Day and Christchurch is ready to party. Later, top reinsman Dexter Dunn will change out of his silks and into a suit to join the revellers. But first the "pin-up boy of harness racing" has some work to do.
The preparations are over. The suits have been pressed, the dresses have been agonised over. We've booked the day off, we've studied the form and now it's time for Christchurch's biggest annual party.
But for 23-year-old Dexter Dunn preparing for Cup Day has been a little more taxing.
Over recent months, Dunn has endured countless early morning training sessions, trials, and trips throughout the country, all leading him to the pinnacle of harness racing - the New Zealand Trotting Cup.
Today Dunn will begin the final leg of an extraordinary journey. He is only 10 wins away from driving his thousandth winner, something only a dozen drivers in the history of New Zealand harness racing have achieved.
His father, Robert Dunn, is a horse trainer, an occupation that "made it pretty hard" for the young Dunn to avoid a career in the industry.
"It's something I've known all my life," Dexter Dunn said. "It's the only thing I'm qualified to do. I wouldn't have a clue what I'd do if I wasn't doing this."
Today, he will arrive at Addington dressed in a suit.
But "it doesn't stay on very long", he said. "My outfit for Cup Day is my driving gear really.
"The big races give you a huge buzz and racing at Cup Day with 20-odd thousand people there is definitely a thrill, especially if you win."
Between 11am and 6pm, Dunn will take part in 10 races. He will drive Stunin Cullen in the New Zealand Trotting Cup and will be completely focused on the task at hand.
But afterwards he will put his suit back on and kick back with countless other Cantabrians to enjoy the festivities.
"I'm looking forward to having a few drinks and relaxing," he said.
BIG DAY ARRIVES FOR RACEWAY BOSS
Cup Day planning started on "day one of the job" for new Addington Raceway chief executive Dean McKenzie.
He took over from Shane Gloury at the end of Cup and Show Week last year.
"It's been busy but it's been fun," McKenzie said.
"The team here are amazing, so that makes my job a lot easier." The former Jade Stadium boss is no stranger to racing as most of his family are "enthusiasts".
McKenzie first attended Cup Day at Addington about 25 years ago and said "it's one of those events that play a part in your life".
Organising the "logistical monster" had its challenges, he said. "With any event of this scale, it's never the same two years in a row.
"That's part of the excitement but it's also part of the challenge."
Setting up the corporate hospitality marquees was "quite a big undertaking", he said, as was the public village area.
"There are tables, chairs, food and beverages, live music and everything in between. It requires planning down to the last detail but that's what we do."
Bookings for the corporate hospitality areas had been "very strong" and the Lindauer Lawn had sold out the week before Cup Day, he said.
The raceway's main stand had to be demolished after suffering major damage in the February 2011 earthquake.
Thousands of dollars were spent on temporary infrastructure for last year's Cup Day.
"I'm very happy with how we've managed the process and I think we've improved on last year," McKenzie said.
"Cup and Show Week is a Canterbury institution and there's always going to be a lot to live up to."
For McKenzie, his first year in charge has been "all about the buildup to Cup Day". "Cup and Show Week is the sexy part of the Canterbury year."
McKenzie said he would be able to relax today as long as he looked around and "saw people smiling and enjoying themselves".
COOL BUT FINE BIG DAY
Showers may never be far away this week as the region prepares to celebrate Cup Day and the 150th Canterbury A & P Show.
Warnings last week to keep the brolly handy were still valid. However, the trend was for improving weather during the next few days.
Show Day, Friday, looked the least likely for showers.
For Cup Day today, there could be a few morning showers, but mostly sunny, dry conditions were expected for racing in the afternoon, although with a chilly maximum of 13 degrees Celsius. Temperatures were forecast to rise a little tomorrow and on Thursday to the mid to high teens but a few showers were still likely, more so tomorrow.
Predictions for Show Day were for increasing high cloud and mild temperatures in the upper teens.
MetService spokesman Dan Corbett said weak low-pressure systems would influence the city this week.
"For part of the week, we will be between these features, so the weather will be OK," he said.
Rain was expected to set in again on Saturday.
PLANNING YOUR NZ CUP DAY
Gates open at 9.30am
First race at 11.50am
New Zealand Cup race at 5.15pm
Free buses -
Pick up - 10.30am and 11.30am from Westpac Bank on Papanui Road and on Oxford Terrace, near Christchurch Hospital.
Drop off - departing from Old Stables car park at Addington Raceway every half hour from 5.30pm to 7.30pm
Corporate hospitality areas open at 11am
Horse owners can collect their passes from the Owners' Marquee adjacent to the entry of the stables
New Zealand Army Band performing on public stage from 1.30pm
Fashion heats take place in public village starting from 11.30am
Best dressed man and woman will be announced at the dais at 2.20pm
NZ CUP DAY BY THE NUMBERS
3500 chicken thighs
2900 linen napkins
2500 portions of salmon
1100 table cloths
750 kilograms of prime beef
500 kilograms of potatoes
50 baked hams
24 water stations